Third grade student Shelby Dykema finishes her report on Fats Domino for Black History Month during Michelle Frost's third grade class at Eastside Elementary School. Eastside is planned for closure after this school year. (File photo)
Third grade student Shelby Dykema finishes her report on Fats Domino for Black History Month during Michelle Frost's third grade class at Eastside Elementary School. Eastside is planned for closure after this school year. (File photo)

Archived Story

Good-bye celebration set for Eastside

Published 11:45pm Tuesday, May 18, 2010

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

It’s hard to imagine the history held inside the walls of any school building.

There are the countless first and last days of so many children who roam them, the echoes of lockers slamming and bells ringing on the last day of school before spring break, summer break and winter break.

There are memories of desks that held pencils and notebooks and text books that have changed from year to year, the lessons remaining – for the most part – the same.

Those memories, held in the hallways of Eastside Elementary School, will be celebrated Wednesday, May 26 in a special community-wide celebration “to reminisce, bring closure, celebrate the past (and) mark history.”

“Basically it’s just an opportunity for those who haven’t been directly connected with the school (former students, teachers, members of the community) … a time just to have almost like a reunion type of feel, to walk through the school again and see it still as a school,” principal David Eichenberg said.

The celebration is being organized through a sub-committee of the transition team put together to help students, parents and staff work through the school’s closing at the end of the year, a decision that spurred upset, disappointment and frustration throughout the community earlier this month.

“Cultures are shaped by great people,” incoming superintendent Richard Weigel said, “and the Eastside culture is an important part of our history as well as an important part of our future.”

That celebration speaks to the need for closure, he said, and the history of the school is something to be recognized.

Another sub-committee, Eichenberg said, would be organizing a special celebration for current students, expected to take place toward the final days of school.

The celebration will consist of a short program, Eichenberg said.

“We’re going to have some former teachers speak about their experience here and we’re going to try to … we’re in the midst of trying to find out more about the time capsule that was buried here in 1976,” he said.

A special quilt that hangs in the school will be donated to the Fort St. Joseph Museum.

Hopes are that the capsule will be found. The plan is to dig it up, and pieces of Eastside’s present will then join its past as its students look to a new future.

“We want to add some things (to the capsule) and then put (it) back in the ground,” Lucy McCauslin said.

A former PTO president at the school, current substitute teacher and mother of two former Eastside students, McCauslin said the aspect of bringing closure to so many who hold the school dear is significant.

“Because we’re all very sad,” she said. “We’re like one big family there.

“I’ve been involved in the school (in some way) for the past 20 years,” McCauslin added. “It’s just very sad to see the school close.”

Since the decision to close the school was made, Eichenberg said the transition team as well as students and teachers have been moving forward and things are going well.
“It’s been pretty smooth,” he said. “After the initial announcement teachers have pretty much – their primary focus has been getting through the remainder of the year here.”

The celebration came following strong backlash aimed at the Niles Community Schools district board of education after the decision was made to close the school. Many parents were upset at how the decision was handled and some even threatened to recall members of the board.

Eichenberg said the May 26 event is a means to moving on.

“That’s what we’re trying to do through this, really … we’re kind of moving forward and trying to wrap up the history that’s here,” he said.

“And making sure that’s not lost in the future,” he continued. “But also looking to what the district can become as well.”

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