life in and around NYC is insane

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


It's raining today. It rained on this day 45 years ago, too.

November 12, 1968.  It was a Tuesday.  My very first day in a new school.  We had moved into our new home the previous Friday, November 8.  The school was just a short walk from our home.   I was in third grade, and used to the rhythms of the school in our old neighborhood.  That school had been very traditional, but my new school (I would learn) was more progressive and innovative.  It very quickly became my home.

I remember all my teachers.  My favorite was Mrs. L, who brought lots of small animals to class for us to take care of. I remember being in the play in 3rd grade.  Singing in the chorus.  Taking viola lessons. Field Day on the athletic field at the top of the hill.  The Halloween parade.  Riding on the bus to the high school to visit the planetarium.  Square dancing in the gym.

I graduated from elementary school at the end of sixth grade, and went on to junior high and high school in the same district.  My sisters followed me through all the schools.

Fast forward to the spring of 1995.  I am in the middle of a divorce, and my daughters and I have moved back into my parents' house.  Jen is 4 1/2 years old, and it's time to register for kindergarten.  And I am going to enroll her in the same elementary school that I attended.

So Jen, my sister A and I drove over to the school.  It was weird walking into that building as a parent, that very first time.  The building was the same as I remembered, and yet not the same.  A place you knew as a child looks oh so very different through adult eyes.

The very first person we encountered as we came into the school was Mr. D.  I remembered him from my days as a student, and A was in his class when she was in sixth grade.  Of course he remembered us.

And then we met Mrs. I.  She was in charge of the school cafeteria.  She started working at the school the year after I graduated, but my sisters all had fond memories of her.

Ultimately both of my daughters attended that elementary school, and the same middle school and high school that I attended.  And I had many moments as a parent meeting my former teachers. . .

Time, of course, does not stand still.  When we moved to this town in 1968, the community was experiencing a construction boom.  New houses everywhere!  Families with 3 or more children were the norm.  And that meant a construction boom for the schools as well -- expanding existing schools and building new schools.  At our peak in the mid 1970's the district had 2 high schools, 3 junior high schools and 10 elementary schools.

And then, in the 1980's, as the population shifted, one junior high and 4 elementary schools were closed -- though one of the elementary schools subsequently reopened.

Fast forward again to September 2013.  Jen is hired as a paraprofessional at one of the elementary schools in the district, though not the one she attended as a student.  She's also coaching cheer-leading at the high school.

Last year the school board announced that one of the cost-cutting measures under consideration was to close one or more school buildings.  By September of this year the rumors are circulating as to which school(s) will be closed.

Two weeks ago, the board of education announced its decision.  Two elementary schools will close.  Including the school I attended. The school my sisters attended.  The school where my children spent so much of their childhood.

Jen was shaken when she came home from the board meeting.  She'd seen several of her former teachers at the meeting, and they were crying.

I want to cry, too.

I'm not among the staff or students whose lives will be disrupted when the school closes next year.  I don't have that turmoil.  My connection to the school is tenuous at best,  based mostly on nostalgia and sentimentality (though I do have a practical concern -- what will become of the building and grounds?)

But yes, I want to cry.

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