On Tuesday, 3rd through 5th graders bounded off their school buses on Trowbridge Road and into the halls of the new Bourne Intermediate School for the first day of classes in the building.
Hop into the Bourne time machine, set the controls for January 3, 1955, and you likely would have seen a similar scene transpiring at a building that until this July stood just across the parking lot.
On that day, what would subsequently become known as the James P. Peebles Elementary School opened its doors for the first time to students.
The school initially served students from 1st to 4th grades who until that point had been schooled at several locations around the town, including the Camp Edwards Legion Building, the basement and attic rooms of Bourne Grammar School, and school buildings in Buzzards Bay.
Those students now alive, of course, would be anywhere from 70 to 74 years old, and may also be grandparents themselves, with grandchildren in middle or high school.
When classes began at Peebles, the man for whom the school would be named was no dusty historic figure, but the functioning superintendent of the joint school district that included Sandwich and Mashpee as well as Bourne public schools.
At Town Meeting the next month, Bourne residents voted resoundingly in favor of naming the school after Mr. Peebles, who at that time was in his 27th year as the superintendent.
That year’s Annual Town Report included his deep appreciation for the tribute: “The honor is a tremendous one and I am deeply cognizant of it.”
Just as many current Bourne residents were not even alive when Peebles opened its doors, its successor across the driveway contains a remnant that hearkens to an even earlier time: the school bell that dates to 1875 at the Head of the Bay School, when Bourne had yet to become a separate town from Sandwich.
The world has changed a great deal since 1875 or even 1955. The general technology behind the airplanes and automobiles of 1955 that the 19th century Head of the Bay students would have considered wonders has evolved into orbiting space stations and hand-held devices that can communicate across the globe.
But students are still students; more to the point, kids are still kids.
The first students to attend Bourne Intermediate School have access to and will learn knowledge far beyond the imagination of their 19th or 20th century counterparts at their age.
Still, it’s interesting that the model hit on fairly early in the life of the American Republic – educating groups of local children of similar age at public expense – continues to be the basic operating model today.
And not to downplay the essential mission of local public schools – to instruct students in the basis skills and knowledge they will need to progress further in their education, and to continue to the functioning of society – but a good chunk of the learning provided de facto by the schools is to learn how to get along with other kids: a crucial life skill to acquire as they grow into adulthood.
So Bourne Intermediate School may be new, but its students are participating in something that goes back most of two centuries in what now is Bourne.
When the wrecking ball eventually comes for this building, its own successor likely will be ready to provide a setting for an education for children much like those who walked through its doors on Tuesday.