Joy Elementary (1961-2022)
School Mascot: Cubby Bear
School Colors: Red and White
School Motto: TEAM - Together Everyone Achieves More
- 1961-1965 | Webster Calloway
- 1965-1983 | Shirley Craft
- 1983-1997 | Bob Curran
- 1997-1999 | Bob Johnston
- 2000-2007 | Mike O'Connor
- 2007-2013 | David Foshee
- 2013-2014 | Briana Randle
- 2014-2015 | Lori Swanson
- 2015-2021 | LaLaunie Whisenhant
- 2021-2022 | Stacy Foshee
History of Joy Elementary
Lois F. Joy
For over 25 years, Lois F. Joy oversaw Fairbanks area public education as a member of the local school board. For all but two of those years, he was president. Elected to the Fairbanks City School Board in 1932, Joy oversaw the construction of Main School in 1933-34 after its predecessor burned down in late 1932. When the city schools became an independent district in 1947, Joy was elected to the new board and retained his position as president. He retired from the board in October 1957, having seen the district through its growth in the 1950's: the construction of Denali Elementary, Nordale Elementary, Hunter Elementary, and Lathrop High. In 1961, Joy Elementary was dedicated in his name.
Born in Clarks Mill, New York in 1890, Joy first came to Alaska through Skagway in 1899 with his parents. They soon came to Fairbanks, where his father was killed in a hunting accident in 1902. After that, Joy's mother took her 11-year-old son and her other children back to New York. Joy returned to Alaska in 1914 with his wife Gladys. He worked as an electrician for the Northern Commercial Power Plant, and then for the Municipal Utilities System until his retirement in 1957. He died December 31, 1971 in Gassville, Arkansas.
The construction of Joy Elementary in 1961 signaled a dramatic departure from traditional school design. Admirers praised the circular form with 14 classrooms built around the center, the extensive use of glass and plastic coated metal panels for the exterior walls, and the four openings leading to the centrally located gym. In addition to its aesthetic impact, the school was built for future expansion, with the ability for additional classrooms to be built around the structure's center.
Criticism of the greater building costs and higher heating bills generated by the quantity of exposed surface were somewhat muffled when Lee S. Linck, the school's engineer and architect, received an award for the school's unique and beautiful design at the 1962 Seattle World Fair.
Burgess Construction Company and Reed and Martin began construction of this $1.2 million project on July 21, 1960, and dedication followed on November 9, 1961. Many people questioned the Lemeta location, but Dr. James C. Ryan, then superintendent of schools, held firm, believing in future enrollment growth and a five-year building plan.
The discovery of asbestos fibers in the band room in the early 1980's eventually led to school closure and to an extensive renovation beginning in 1986. Two architecture firms (Anchoraged-based ECI Hire and Fairbanks-based Patricia Piersol, Inc) combined resources to design a project that balanced the original design image with greater energy efficiency. While asbestos was removed and the school remodeled, students and staff squeezed into the old McKinley School building on Fort Wainwright, which came to be called, "McJoy."
Led by Principal Bob Curran, the student and staff in 1989 returned to a dramatically improved building that included a full-sized library with a large media center, complete with a story corner. Additionally, an art room and an intensive resource center were added. According to Principal Curran, "This fostered an expanded, diverse community. We feel this diversity will be just as great an asset as any of the physical resources provided by our new building."
Enrollment numbers have fluctuated greatly during the school's many years of service. From the first year number of 277 students enrolled in Joy, the number exploded to 610 in 1970. This led to the installation of Joy's first portable classrooms. The population gradually declined to a 1980 total of 292 students. After renovations, Joy's capacity was expanded to 608 students.
From its very early years, respect for the environment has been an important part of Joy's curriculum. In 1967, students helped originate a movement to set aside Creamer's Field as a goose and duck refuge. They worked with other concerned groups in raising $5,000 to purchase the land and protect it from development. Eventually, the land was acquired by the state and, yearly, most residents eagerly await the spring migration of geese and ducks.
In 1975, students collected one mile's worth of pennies to assist in returning 30 billion pennies into circulation. Again, in 1984, students collected 30,177 pennies for the Statue of Liberty restoration project. In 1997, Joy Elementary was the first school in the district to receive the Green Star Award. This honor was earned by successfully implementing a series of waste reduction and energy conservation standards.
By the 2022 school year, enrollment at Joy Elementary had declined to 319 students and the building was in need of extensive and expensive repairs. The school district overall had seen declining enrollment over the last decade, and this was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Faced with 2,000 few students than 10 years ago, empty classrooms, and financial pressure, the Board of Education voted in the spring of 2022 to close Joy Elementary. Joy students were distributed to surrounding neighborhood schools and the building was returned to the Borough.
Source: Fairbanks Area Public Schools, 2004
Louis F. Joy in 1957.
The original Joy Elementary School with its award-winning circular design.
The exterior of Joy Elementary School in 2003. On the right is the older circular section and on the left, the new addition.