Friday, June 07, 2002

Students say goodbye to school

Oneida Elementary packing up the memories

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        MIDDLETOWN — Nearly 50 years of education at Oneida Elementary School ended Thursday with recognition ceremonies for the last class of sixth-graders to leave the 260-pupil school.

[photo] First-grade teacher Stephanie Weidner takes a final, emotional look around her classroom Thursday at Oneida Elementary.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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        The building will be demolished over the summer, and its students reassigned to nearby Amanda Elementary School. Teachers had about 45 minutes after classes ended to say their goodbyes before maintenance workers converged at the school to move boxes, furniture and memorabilia to Amanda.

        “It's a shame (this) is a last day,” said Michael W. Puckett, whose daughter, Megan, was among the school's last sixth-graders. “This wasn't just a school. It was a family. (Principal Jim) Thomas is like a father to a huge family. I felt they were safe here. It's just like a home away from home.”

        In a “farewell Oneida” speech, Victoria Lovejoy reminded classmates of the fun they had had since entering as kindergartners. She talked of an Easter egg hunt in kindergarten, dissecting fish in the third grade, measuring the perimeter of the school in fifth grade, and their teachers falling in the mud during a Camp Campbell Gard field trip this year.

        “We have all kinds of memories,” Victoria said. “It's kind of hard to leave.”

[photo] Kindergartner Hayley Hall, 6, waves a flag in her nearly empty classroom Thursday before movers came for its contents.
([name of photographer] photo)
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        Sixth-grade teachers Gail Banks and Jeanne Wayt kept tissues handy through the 75-minute ceremony that saw more than one pair of wet eyes as the students sang “You've Got a Friend” and “Friends Forever” before filing up to receive certificates.

        “A lot of dreams, a lot of inspirations have come out of this school,” said Mr. Thomas, who will become principal at Amanda.

        “It's just not going to be the same,” said parent Sharon Farley, who has had children attending Oneida the past 10 years. “I know all the teachers by their first names. You make a lot of friends after that many years.”

        Sixth-grader Kaitlin Howard said she saw classmates' behavior changing the closer it got to the school's last day.

        “I think the kids are acting better because it's closing,” said Kaitlin, 12. “It's really weird.”

        The students will adapt easier to the change than the adults, Mrs. Wayt and Mrs. Banks agreed. After nine years of teaching sixth grade together, only Mrs. Banks will be teaching sixth grade at Amanda next year with a different group of teachers. Both are grateful, however, that Mrs. Wayt has been assigned a fifth-grade classroom next door to Mrs. Banks.

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