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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Saying farewell to four Euclid schools

When you think about it, Barry L. Sweet was right.

The president of Euclid City Council pointed out Friday on the front lawn of Roosevelt Elementary School in Euclid that it was a once-in-a-lifetime event.

That didn’t make it any less bittersweet.

No, the groundbreaking for one of Euclid’s new elementary schools brought back a lot of important memories for me.

Important, because they’re the foundation of my education.

In Mrs. Holtcamp’s kindergarten class, I learned to share, to be patient and to say my alphabet. In Miss Wade’s first-grade class, I learned to string those letters together into words and then put them in sentences. In Mrs. Phillips' second-grade class I learned to write in cursive. In Mrs. Bending’s third-grade class, during a few weeks of engineering lessons, I decided I didn’t want to be an engineer.

In Mrs. Judd’s fourth-grade class, I struggled with multiplication tables. In Mrs. Murray’s fifth-grade class, I decided to go into journalism. In Steelers fan Miss Nichols’ sixth-grade class, I honed my hatred of the Steelers while enduring a section called “Art of Personal Living.” (Yes it means what you think it does.)

I only ventured inside Roosevelt a few times after I moved on to Euclid Central Junior High and Euclid High School, then Kent State University.

When you’re a teenager, you don’t want to visit the little kids. And, in Fall 2012, it’ll be just like they say — you can’t go home again.

So, when I heard Sweet’s words — “This is the only day in your lives when you’ll experience such an event” — I sat back and reflected.

“It’s time to move on to something new,” he continued.

I suppose so.

Euclid voters in November 2009 approved participation in a program through which the State of Ohio pays for 41 percent of the building cost to replace four elementary schools in the district.

The state’s portion of the $60 million project is $25 million. Residents took on the burden of the rest of the funds by agreeing to the new-money initiative — almost unheard of these days.

Sweet didn’t forget the voters in his remarks.

“Yes, I say this is a grass-roots stimulus project by virtue of you all reaching deep inside yourselves to make this happen,” he said.

But Euclid Mayor Bill Cervenik spoke for many Euclid residents when he pointed out that new buildings aren’t a cure for what ails the Euclid School District, which consistently posts low test scores on state exams.

“Once these buildings are open, we have to build our children,” he said. “We have to create an attitude in them that learning is important, and we have to create in them an attitude that respect is important. We have to make them understand that these buildings were built for them through the generosity of the Ohio School Facilities Commission, as well as the generosity of the positive vote of the residents of the city, that we care about our children, we are concerned about their future. I want these children to get a great education.”

He said he wasn’t always sure new schools were the key to the future, but he understands what they’ll provide.

“Someone asked me, ‘Well Mayor, do you really need a brand new building to educate a student in the proper way?’ ” he said. “And I said I don’t know that the building is the whole thing, but in today’s new world, technology — ever-changing technology and industries — yeah, a building like this is absolutely important.

“They need to be able to have at their fingertips all the technology — every opportunity to grow and prosper in their education.”

Euclid Schools Superintendent Joffrey Jones was almost poetic as he discussed what’s about to begin after the turns of shovels at four elementary school sites in Euclid.

“We thank the community who dreamt with us, who saw the potential for a community Renaissance anchored in reborn places of learning,” he said. “We thank our leaders who pulled with us to breathe life into a blueprint, to turn brick and mortar and glass and tile into living laboratories of instruction that will inspire young scholars and leaders to grow and value their education for the quality of life it lifts and inspires.”

As the groundbreaking ceremony began, Roosevelt’s choir stood and sang the school song I myself learned 40 years ago from Mrs. Holtcamp:

“Roosevelt School we cheer you every day. Here is where we learned to work and play. On the great highway. As we march along, we will sing this merry, merry song.”

They followed it with another tune, moving their arms and dancing along to the words of “It’s Our Time.”

Perhaps they’re right. Roosevelt had 92 years to educate scores of children.

Now it’s going to be Arbor Elementary School’s turn.

Farewell, old girl. And thanks for the memories.

Twitter: @lauranh


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