Peters Township’s population surge in the 1990s prompted construction of a new elementary school in the decade’s final year.

“It’s the 20th anniversary of Bower Hill’s opening, and the PTA wanted to do something really special to mark the occasion,” said Julie Collins, the association’s assistant treasurer. “We also wanted to have a nice, welcoming back-to-school event for families and the Bower Hill community.”

Delanie DeSimone

Delanie DeSimone calculates how far a plastic frog will fly when she hits it with a mallet at one of the many games available for youngsters to play during the celebration.

The result was a Sept. 6 celebration that drew a nearly capacity crowd to the grounds of the school, off Bower Hill Road.

“We asked for folks to RSVP, just so we could get an idea, and we had more than 1,200 people respond,” Collins said. “We were shocked by it, but certainly pleased by it.”

Collins joined Samantha McVicker, PTA president, and board members Laura Rohrbach and Cindy Peterson in planning the event, which featured food trucks, games, crafts, music and a whole lot of carnival-type inflatables out back for the youngsters to enjoy.

“It feels amazing,” McVicker said about the turnout. “You can put a lot of work into something, and you never know who’s going to show up. This is bigger than we could ever have imagined.”

Raine Miller

Raine Miller sees how many pumps it takes to pop a balloon in activity featured during the Bower Hill Elementary School celebration.

As such, a shuttle was provided from McMurray Elementary School to the celebration and back, and PTA board members including Missy Harmon and Carrie Ace helped monitor parking in the Bower Hill lot.

Among those attending were about 40 volunteers from Peters Township’s middle and high schools, most of them Bower Hill alumni. Middle school student Caitlin Gallagher dressed like “Buzzer,” the school’s mascot, to greet plenty of smiling children.

Retired teachers and staff members also paid a visit, including Myra Oleynik, who served as school librarian from 1999 through 2015 and is now director of Peters Township Public Library. She remembers packing up books at McMurray Elementary for kindergartners through third-graders to bring to the new school.

Brooklyn Benson and Buzzer

Brooklyn Benson smiles for the camera with Buzzer, the Bower Hill mascot, as portrayed by Peters Township Middle School student Caitlin Gallagher.

“We had lots of helpers,” she said. “We had lots of moms, dads, grandparents, kids and we got them over here. Then we had to unpack them and figure out where we going to put them. How would we lay out the library? That was a big challenge, but it all worked out for us.”

One of the more popular features always has been Storytime Corner.

“While I was here, I would have my former students who were in high school come back and read to the elementary kids,” Oleynik said. “Then those kids would come back and read to the elementary kids.”

Technology was starting to figure more prominently in education at the turn of the millennium, and she also remembered the then-state-of-the-art Apple iMacs – the bulbous computers that came in “Life Savers” colors such as Blueberry and Strawberry – that were placed in Bower Hill’s library.

“That was the first chance the kids really had to see a catalog online,” Oleynik said.


Helping celebrate from the Peters Township School District administration are, from left, Michael Fisher, assistant superintendent; Jeannine French, superintendent; Shelly Belcher, communications coordinator; and Jennifer Murphy, deputy superintendent.


Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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