Goodbye Willow Street School

December 19, 2008

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I feel like I’m in mourning.  The boys’ elementary school of 120 students closed its doors for the last time Wednesday after 93 years.  The children will be going to a brand new elementary school after Christmas with a population of 560 kids from Primary – Grade 5.  They will now take the bus instead of walking and I will be packing lunches instead of waiting for them to burst through the door at noon.  A mother can do a lot of trouble-shooting in that half hour they are home at lunch!  (And I always throw their wet mittens, hats & socks in the dryer.)  I know that so many children stay for lunch and take a bus, so I feel a bit guilty for whining.  However, I grew up here in town (at one of the other schools that closed Wednesday) and walked to elementary school, junior high & high school.  Busses are foreign & frightening to me.

At Willow Street School, I was able to do things like call and ask the principal to look for Evan’s sneakers when they went missing.  I don’t think that will happen at the new school!!  Sarah was born when Evan was in primary and Olivia was born when Alex was in Primary & Evan was in Grade 2, and they announced both births over the PA when they found out.  Sarah goes along with me whenever I go volunteer and when I forgot Evan’s milk money, one of the EA’s called me because she knew he always got milk.  She ended up paying for him and I sent in the money in the afternoon.  When Alex started school they made so many accommodations for him because of his eye-sight, without us even having to ask!  Right down to getting him special paper with black lines and putting rough yellow tape on the edges of all the steps in the school (and there are a lot!) so he would be safer.   It is such a close-knit community and is incredibly sad, as a parent, to leave it behind.  The kids can’t wait.

We had the “official” closing a couple of weeks ago, on November 28th.  I’m guessing we had over 500 people show up – mostly former students & teachers, but we did have a gentleman who told us that his mother went to WSS in 1923!  We also had a gentleman from the class of 1928 come to see the school one last time.  It was a wonderful evening, as the photos convey:

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Some current and former staff

Some current and former staff

We had the school Christmas Concert on Monday which had a great turnout.  It was actually the best elementary school concert I’ve been to!  The music teacher had been brought out of retirement for this term, knowing that the school would be closing.  He was my music teacher in Junior High and I think he missed his calling  – he should have been an elementary teacher because the kids adored him!  He also is the conductor of the town band, so they performed and were the accompanists for part of the concert!  He put together an “alumni choir”, and I put that in quotation marks because I was talked into joining, although I was not a WSS alumni.  (It’s nice to feel needed, nonetheless!)  They justified it because I was a parent & PTG, and the former teacher who conducted the choir is actually the woman we bought our house from and I was in her choir when I was three!

Grade 2 - Alex's class

Grade 2 - Alex's class

Grade 4 seems somewhat confused

Grade 4 seems somewhat confused

...but come together for a delightful performance!

...but come together for a delightful performance!

I was surprised when five of us (moms) were called up on stage to receive bouquets in appreciation for the work we do around the school as volunteers. 

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On Wednesday, the girls, Ginna & I went along with the school to a Christmas Church Service where Alex read.  It was a fitting way to spend the morning of the last day, I think.  There were no big celebrations in the afternoon because the teachers were too busy packing.  The already sombre atmosphere was amplified at lunchtime when a boy in Grade One slipped in the slippery snowstorm and was hit by one of the staff with her car in the parking lot. He was taken away by ambulance and I have heard he has a broken leg, and will be in a cast for 6-8 weeks.

Parents had been invited to the school in the afternoon to be there for final bell, so Ginna, the girls & I walked over in the snow.  The teachers all got in a group outside before the kids were dismissed, and when the bell rang, they waved goodbye at the bottom of the steps, saying “Merry Christmas!” as the kids streamed out of the school.  There were tears and smiles & laughter and lots of hugs.

Alex & Maddie leaving

Alex & Maddie leaving

Evan & Christian leaving together

Evan & Christian leaving together

Teacher group hug

Teacher group hug

Natalie & Amy

Natalie & Amy

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I have a print of the school that we “won” at the silent auction at the Fun Fair in the Spring.  I think it is quite fitting that the weather on the last day is so similar to the print.  We (PTG) hosted a luncheon for the teachers and staff here yesterday and we presented the principal and the administrative assistant who are both moving on, with the same print.  We gave each of the teachers new books for their new classrooms with the profits of our book fair and had bookplates made up for those books with a folk-art painting of the school and the words, “This book was a gift from Willow Street School PTG”.  When we find out how much money we have leftover once we amalgamate with the other schools’ PTGs, we are planning to donate a piece of playground equipment to the new school.

Ah, change.  I put the following quote by Pauline R. Kezer on the place card for the Teachers’ Luncheon:  “Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches,letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights.”  Change is never easy, and I know that the new school will end up being wonderful in its own way.  However, when we drove by WSS this morning and the moving vans were pulled up to the front door, Alex said from the back seat, “You know, it kind of hurts my heart to look at that”. 

Me too!

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One Response to “Goodbye Willow Street School”


  1. […] I’m not a fan of the boys’ new school.  I worried and fretted about it enough here, here,   here and here while making the transition.   Since the move was made, I’ve been very […]


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