A new walkway made of stepping stones greets visitors, students, and staff members at the Community Park Elementary School in Princeton.
The path project, created by the Community Park Elementary School Class of 2020, was started more than a year ago to commemorate learning in school and at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. A gift from the Class of 2020 to the school, the path begins at the front of the school and winds its way to the back. The pathway includes both physical and virtual elements.
The PTO committee charged with organizing the class gift, which included Bevin Cahill, Sonia and Joe Gessner, Ryan Lilienthal, and Heather Salkin, considered a variety of ideas that might capture the student experience during the tumultuous year. “After a year that started off routine, but unfolded into one of student separation and in isolation in remote learning, we wanted to do something special,” said Lilienthal, parent of Jacob Lilienthal, who is now in the seventh grade at Princeton Middle school.
Students at Community Park were given stepping stone pavers at the school’s drive-through graduation ceremony to decorate and bring back the following week. The stepping stones decorated by the students, along with ones for their teachers and principal, now make up the Legacy Path. The physical and virtual elements of the path mimic the students’ physical and virtual learning experience. Alongside the stepping stone path, there are several QR codes that link to a message from the principal and the voices of the students sharing what learning at Community Park meant to them during the pandemic.
“This unique legacy path was the product of parent and student collaboration; a way to memorialize a year like no other. It combines nature and tangible reminders of an experience that was virtual and remote,” said school principal Dineen Gruchacz.
Leo Gessner, a 2020 graduate, said for him the path means “thank you.”
“Even years from now, I will always be grateful to Community Park,” Gessner said.