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With a countdown, five… four… three… two… one… Garrett Bainbridge, a fifth grader, launched the annual rocket signifying the first day of school at Van Arsdale Elementary School in Arvada Aug. 17. Each year, Cub Scout Pack 475, which meets at the school, launches a rocket to kick off the first day of school after presenting the colors.
What was different this year, was the absence of Wayne and Mardi Van Arsdale, the school's namesakes, who both died earlier this year.
“They never missed the opening day of school nor the continuation at the end of school,” said Celia Van Arsdale Powell, one of their daughters. She and her brother and sister attended the first day in honor of their parents. “They came to so many things — the geography bee, the spelling bee, penmanship day, theater presentations, grandparents day… This is a really special place to all of us.”
Wayne and Mardie Van Arsale moved to Arvada in 1954 and lived just blocks away from where the school was built in 1994. They lived in the same home until 2016, when they moved into to assisted living.
Wayne Van Arsdale was a member of the Jefferson County Board of Education for 13 years, half of the time serving as president. He was also instrumental in creation of Jeffco's Outdoor Lab schools. Mardie Van Arsdale was known for volunteering and teaching second graders at the neighborhood the value of reading.
“Our parents were always community educators,” said Peter Van Arsdale. “They weren't ever teachers but supporters of education.”
To honor the Van Arsdales Cub Scout Troop 475 built a Little Free Library, which now stands in front of the school next to a wooden bench that wraps around a shady tree. The two items were dedicated Aug. 17 with hopes that they encourage students to embrace reading.
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