MERCED — St. Luke's Anglican School will celebrate its 45 years as a Merced institution June 1 with a campus party and farewell celebration for students, alumni, parents, teachers and staff.
The school, at 350 W. Yosemite Ave., which now serves only preschoolers and kindergartners, will close for good June 5.
"It's sad that we're closing, but we have so many happy memories to share," said Jani Clarke. She co-founded the school in 1967 with JoAnne Wright, and was its head teacher from 1967-75, and again from 1999-2001,
Rummaging through old photos to be displayed June 1, Clarke recalled students and parents she had not seen in years but remembered well.
"The school has always had such a good family atmosphere," Clarke said. "I knew the parents well. They were required to be involved, and indeed they were. They helped enormously with the annual auction, and also gave their time and talents on campus."
Clarke said the mission of the school has been to provide a safe and loving environment where children can exceed academically.
"It's a Christian school, but parents of many faiths sent their children here because of the education and care they would receive," she said. "Our teachers have always been excellent. All were credentialed and committed to nurturing the whole child."
Although many students came from privileged homes, St. Luke's offered scholarships to lower- income families, made possible by its annual auction.
Castle Air Force Base also provided students. In its heyday, the school that began with 16 preschool and 11 kindergarten students grew to well beyond 200 pupils, and included a middle school.
For Jillian Small-Elms, who attended St. Luke's with her sister, the closure is a huge disappointment.
"Those were such wonderful school years for my family and me. We had amazing teachers and staff. I'm so incredibly sad to see the doors close to this wonderful chapter in my life," Small-Elms said.
She added that she had hoped to send her infant son, Corbin, there.
Small-Elms, a licensed vocational nurse, is scheduled to work at Mercy Medical Center's Family Birthing Center on June 1, but is trying hard to change her shift so she can attend the good-bye party.
The farewell celebration begins at 11 a.m. with a thanksgiving service and picnic lunch, followed by outdoor games and photo displays. The event will end about 3 p.m. with a balloon release.