Wednesday, May 21, 2003

When school's out, it's out

Montgomery saying farewell to building, hello to a new one

By Anna Guido
Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] First-grade students at Montgomery Elementary School walk past full moving boxes in a hallway at the school last week.
(Gary Landers photo)
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MONTGOMERY - Even as a new school rises three stories tall, the old schools will not be forgotten.

The new Montgomery Elementary - the fourth built at 9609 Montgomery Road - is a $10.5 million gem that will pay homage to the past.

"We're taking history with us into the new building," Principal Mike Pastura told a crowd of about 80 at a recent farewell tour of the 1950s-era building.

The old Montgomery Elementary, still bustling with activity, will be demolished in June at the end of the school year. The new Montgomery Elementary, now in the final stages of construction, will be dedicated in August before the start of the new school year.

[IMAGE] The new school building, the fourth on the site, will open in August for the new school year.
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Among its historic features is the original Montgomery Elementary School bell, cast in 1859. The bell, which was restored in 1986, will operate electronically.

The new school also has an inscribed concrete tablet from one of the earlier buildings set into the exterior entrance wall. It reads: "Montgomery Special School, 1899," and lists the names of the board of education.

Montgomery Elementary, a K-4 school with 380 students, is one of seven schools in the Sycamore Community School District. For more than 140 years, the historic school has served multiple generations of Montgomery families.

"It's the end of an era," said Anita Hoffman Sizemore, one of the first kindergartners to attend the school in 1952.

"I've lived in the community all my life and when you see something gone, it's gone."

New school
80,000 square feet
Three levels
Classrooms: 900 square feet
Two playgrounds
150 parking spaces
Old school
68,000 square feet
One level
Largest classroom: 820 square feet.
One playground
75 parking spaces
Sizemore attended a farewell tour May 13.

"Montgomery Elementary is a family tradition," she said. "Three generations of us have attended."

Sycamore school officials decided to build a new school because it was not cost effective to renovate the old one. Working out details wasn't easy.

"At one point, they considered another site, but came back here," Mayor Gary Blomberg said.

Blomberg attended several community meetings the school hosted as part of its decision-making process. Building a multilevel structure on the 6-acre property solved the space issue and allowed the new school to remain at the historic site, Blomberg said.

Dr. Vicki Hirsch, 80, was also at the farewell tour. When the school year ends June 6, she'll say another goodbye. Hirsch, who has taught for 35 years - 32 years at Montgomery Elementary - is retiring in June.

"Having kids for a year, you can make a difference," she said. "I'll miss teaching and the school. But I think change just comes."


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