Mayor’s Column: Eastern Regional High School to celebrate 50th anniversary
On May 6, Eastern Regional High School will celebrate 50 years of excellence in education with a special program at 6:30 p.m. in the school’s Performing Arts Center.
Eastern has come a long way in the last five decades. In the beginning there were oak trees, laurel and crickets in the leaves. At first glance, one would think of a quiet, undisturbed forest inhabited only by small furry animals and birds. Fifty acres of this wooded lot would eventually be put to use as a high school.
In the early 1960s, Berlin Borough, Gibbsboro and Voorhees Township had educational concerns. Berlin students were being transported to either Overbrook or Edgewood High Schools. Voorhees and Gibbsboro students were being sent to either Haddonfield or Collingswood High Schools. Neither the parents or students were happy and it was decided that action had to be taken.
Ernest Scheiber, then the Camden County Superintendent of Schools, appointed a temporary school board of 11 members to tackle this dilemma. Reigning from June 12, 1963 until Feb. 4, 1964, the temporary school board set the stage and built a firm foundation for the election of future board members. The three communities were joined together to form a secondary-school region, and plans for a high school were developed. An elected board of nine was assembled and it proposed a bond referendum for the public to consider. The citizens of the three communities approved the referendum and a new high school was born.
Groundbreaking was held in the late spring of 1964 and the original $1.7 million building was completed in September 1965. Opening with 35 faculty members and 495 students, Eastern High School’s first year included only freshmen, sophomores and juniors. The seniors were allowed to finish their final year in the school they had been attending. The first year Eastern had all four grade levels, the student population jumped to 675. Seven years later, the school size doubled and now has a student population of approximately 2,100. The certified staff has increased significantly, totaling more than 175 today.
The original curriculum included very basic courses with only one level of English and History offered. The language department taught Spanish, French, German and Latin. The science department offered the basics in general science, biology, chemistry and physics. Mathematics was divided into general math I and II, technical math, algebra I and II, geometry, and a course called Fourth Year Math.
Eastern’s curriculum has changed significantly since the 1960s and now offers more than 250 courses, including 21 Advanced Placement programs, as well as other college preparatory courses, as well as studies in the fine, practical and performing arts. Curriculum is taught in state-of-the-art learning facilities.
Many organizations were started when the school first opened. Several of these groups have withstood the test of time and are still maintained today. They include the marching band, Student Council, National Honor Society and competitive sports.
The original sports program had only freshman and junior varsity levels of competition until the first senior class was included. Fall sports recognized cross-country, football and field hockey. Winter sports included boys’ basketball, wrestling and a limited girls’ basketball program that did not engage in league competition. Spring heralded boys’ track and baseball. Today, Eastern’s athletic program totals 26 varsity level competitive sports teams, including Eastern’s field hockey team, which has won 16 consecutive New Jersey Group IV State Championships dating back to 1999 and has long been recognized as a national power.
The original physical plant of the school has had two additions. The first was built in 1970 at a cost of $495,000 and the second in 1975 at a cost of $3.7 million.
In 2003, the sending districts approved the addition of six classrooms, five science laboratories, a technology classroom, a teacher’s room and restrooms to the Intermediate High School via a bond referendum. As part of the referendum, additional space was added to the Intermediate High School cafeteria and an updated physical education complex was constructed. This complex now houses a state-of-the-art weight room, an athletic trainer’s office and treatment area, two coaches’ rooms and a meeting room.
In September 2013, the Intermediate and Senior High Schools were combined to form Eastern Regional High School.
Technology in the early days was limited to manual typewriters, adding machines and primitive calculators. Today, Eastern boasts a state-of-the-art television studio used to inform students and the general public of events and programs. Students have moved from using only textbooks and periodicals for information to computer-based workstations and laptops with wired and wireless Internet access to broaden their research horizons. The district maintains 11 computer labs, 700 desktops, 700 iPads and 240 laptops.
Eastern’s first students chose the Viking as the school’s mascot, along with the school’s colors of cardinal, navy and white. Over the years, students and staff have proudly worn the school’s colors and called themselves Vikings.
The Eastern athletic program is one of the finest in the Olympic Conference and in the state of New Jersey. The school’s 26 boys’ and girls’ athletic teams are supported by some of the best facilities available. The football, field hockey, soccer, lacrosse, baseball and softball teams are provided the opportunity to play “under the lights.” In addition, the football, field hockey, soccer and lacrosse fields, along with the baseball infield, now feature “Field Turf.”
In addition to its academic, athletic and arts programs, Eastern provides more than 40 school clubs. Special events are still a tradition at Eastern, including the annual Sophomore Cotillion, Junior Prom and Senior Prom. Student Council continues to play a proactive role, providing leadership opportunities for students.
Eastern has annually earned a rating of “High Performing” by the New Jersey Department of Education and is often cited as one of the state’s premier high schools. NEWSWEEK magazine, in compiling its annual review of high schools throughout the country, selected Eastern Regional High School as one of America’s “top” schools.
As the mayor of Voorhees, I have been honored and privileged to participate in 11 of Eastern’s Commencement Ceremonies. Two of my greatest memories as Mayor were presenting diplomas to my son, Matthew, and my daughter, Marie, upon their graduation from this outstanding school.
On behalf of the Township Committee and the Voorhees Community, congratulations to Eastern Regional High School for helping mold the lives of thousands of our young people over the last half century.
** The annual Animal Welfare Association Paws & Feet 5K Race & Doggie Fun Day is May 15 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Cooper River Park, Pennsauken. This 3.1 mile run or walk is a great way for animal lovers to support AWA’s mission of helping pets and people. The day is full of great activities including pet contests, an agility course, pet demonstrations, and entertainment. This year’s Paws & Feet theme is Superheroes. All the money raised goes toward the adoption center and the care of homeless animals. For more information contact Maria Clarke, Director of Events, Business and Community Relations, at (856) 424–2288, ext. 113 or email@example.com.
**On Saturday, May 30, our schools will hold a Color-A-Thon from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Connolly Park. (Registration begins at 8 a.m.) Money raised will support the Parent Faculty Associations of VMS, ET Hamilton, Osage and Kresson Schools to help fund student and school needs. For more information or to register online, visit www.schoolathon.org.