Curundu Jr. High School


The United States had a long presence in the Isthmus of Panama; ever since the construction of the Panama Canal in 1904.  For almost one hundred years, many improvements were made in this narrow isthmus.  Besides the Panama Canal, which is a monumental creation per se, there were other fundamental advances.  One of them was the excellent educational system designed and implemented by the Department of Defense.

The quality of education in the former Panama Canal Zone was the highest in the hemisphere.  Not only was the education staff contracted by the DOD second to none, but the infrastructure and educational installations was first class as well.  For example, the Curundu Elementary School, the Curundu Jr. High School, the Balboa High School and the Panama Canal College are educational institutions that shaped the personnel that nurtured the Panama Canal.

After the United States left the Canal Zone, these installations were transferred to the Republic of Panama.  It certainly was a challenge for this Third World country to take advantage of this golden opportunity and put these resources into profitable activities.  There are fortunate and unfortunate stories regarding the use of these resources over the years.

The former Curundu Jr. High School was turned over to the University of Panama which has kept it in more or less in good conditions.  I was there a couple of weeks ago to find out how it looked.  I liked what I saw and decided to capture it with my Birthday camera.  These are the pictures I shot of this structure where many kids living in the Panama Canal Zone encountered their first notions of knowledge.

Photograph of the former Curundu Jr. High School operated by the Department of Defense. It is now under the administration of the University of Panama. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Another view of the structure of the Curundu Jr. High School. This structure was built to last a thousand years...or more. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Image of the former Curundu Jr. High School showing its solid construction design. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Picture of an artistic creation placed on one of the walls of the Curundu Jr. High School. I didn't understand what the artists were trying to express, but I'm not strong in art, I might say. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.

Panama was very fortunate in receiving free of charge installations of such high caliber.  I cross my fingers that we continue to keep them as well as the Americans did when they were here.    Good Day.

18 thoughts on “Curundu Jr. High School”

  1. Wow, thanks for the memories! I spent 7, 8 & 9th grade there. I remember the scholl being closed one day because the A/C broke down, and it was not possible to open the windows. The Cafetorium had some pretty good empanadas. There was a pool across the street that we took gym class at, and a little farther down the road near a bridge was the smoling area!

  2. Joe,

    I spent 7th and 8th grade there as well from 1968 to 1969…when were you there…The cafeteria was a cool place ..kind of dome shaped..I had a Mr. Reyes for my Spanish teacher. who played basketball in the Olypmic I believe in 1968 in Mexico City. There were 3 floors and carpeting every where. Before buses took kids home there were often fights that I thought it was odd no teachers ever broke up. I use to hun for crikets in the front of the building for a pet tarantula we had in class. Empanadas and sourbites in the lunchroom. We had dances there also. Panama Canal Zone such a cool place. We lived in Ft. Amador.

  3. I attended 6th grade at Ft. Clayton and lived in Ft. Clayton just down from the main entrance on the right. 800 area and then went on to attend Curundu Jr. High for 7th and part of 8th grade. We moved to the states in 1982

    1. I lived down the street from Curundu Junior HIgh School, across the bridge where some kids would hang out before school. First I went to Los Rios Elementary. I lived in Panama from 1975 to 1978. I loved it. My name is Susan Shirley and I had a brother Anthony. He was at Balboa High School when we moved from there. I remember the empanadas, they were awesome and the genips.

    2. I attended Curundu Elementary 2-6th grade. Then Curundu Jr High for 7th and part of 8th grade. Moved to NY in Oct. 1982. We lived in the “first” 1000 area, down the hill from 519. I miss the genips and the Curundu Cafeteria’s empanadas! That’s what brought me here. I’m trying to find a recipe that might be somewhat close.

  4. I went the for 6th and 7th year 1997-1998 right before it closed. Best memories EVER! I am looking to reunite with people that also went there.

  5. I was at Curundu for 6th and 7th grade, ’96 and ’97. That school was amazing, we were learning on a whole different level. When I went back to the states, I thought it was a huge prank how uneducated the other kids were (went to Kentucky so probably not the best representation lol). Ms. Moore was the best English teacher ever, and she never tired of telling us her story of how she got to high-five Michael Jordan🙂 Seeing these photos bring back so many memories….R.I.P. Eligio Soto

    1. After leaving Panama in 1982 I finally went back with my husband in May. Wow, it was an amazing trip down memory lane. Everything is still there but obviously Panama and the old military bases, housing and facilities are showing some deterioration on the upside the skyline looks like Miami.I live in Houston and Panama City has more skylines than we do and we’re the 4th largest city in the county, ha! I hope the goverment will due a better job at garbage pickup. Saw trash on the roads where I used to ride my 10 speed back then with the military presence everything was clean and picked up.

  6. Hello everyone I am reaching out to school mates that went to curundu in 1987 to 1988, I remember operation just cause and I lived in fort Clayton back in the days Facebook me @ cycletraxx

  7. Hoy en día es el campo Harmodio Arias Madrid, sin embargo es mejor conocida como el “Domo” o el area “yeye de la nacional” yo estudio alli como estudiante de la facultad de psicología y la primera vez que conoci ese lugar quede enamorada de el, me encanta la arquitectura del sitio es un lugar tranquilo. La verdad sus historias me parecen muy interesantes y doy gracias por compartirlas.

  8. I went to Curundu back in 1975-77. I miss my general music class with Mr Chapman. Heard he past away a few years ago. He was extraordinary. The way he could lead us teen-agers to perform the way we did was really something. I miss the school, the teachers, the friends, the city, the beaches, everything. Those were good times.

  9. I went to Curundu JHS from 1967 – 1969. Buying lunch out of vending machines was a first for me. Empanadas we would load with ketchup from squirt bottles and little pizzas.

  10. Thank you so much for posting these photos! What a trip down memory lane!!! I too attending 7th-9th grade at Curundu, as well as 10th at BHS. I lived in Panama (Ft. Clayton) from 1990-1994. Life there was certainly different but memborable and I wouldn’t change it!!!

  11. I studied at this precious institute @ 1996-98. I had come down from India. I still remember those days as it was yesterday. Through this I would request friends to add me on their FB page my id is amitav.hr@hotmail.com…. Again thank you so much for these photos….

  12. Jeff Gardiner – 1977-1979 – favorite memories were playing baseball for the Ft. Clayton Blues. Also remember running on that track in PE, then taking a shower in luke warm water and then sweating in class the rest of the day and not being able to cool down due to the heat.

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