Halls filled with memories
nFormer students, teachers, staff say goodbye to East Petersburg Elementary. BY KAREN SHUEY, Staff Writer
To Sally Williams it's not just brick and mortar, it's not just a place where she worked.
It's memories. It's stories. It's people.
And on Saturday, the 81-year-old joined about 100 other people at East Petersburg Elementary to bid farewell to the 61-year-old school building.
The open house event gave former students, teachers, staff and neighbors one last chance to stroll the hallways before the school is torn down this summer and is replaced by the new school that sits in its shadows.
Williams, who has lived in East Petersburg her whole life, said it's been tough to think about the change.
"This school has been my entire life," she said as tears filled her eyes.
Her first day as a secretary at East Petersburg came in 1972, but she can recall some images as if they happened last week.
Like the ones of her three children heading into their classrooms down the hall, or her grandson eventually walking those same halls.
The scene inside the school on Saturday, however, was different.
People of all ages flooded the halls, and it was clear they all had something in common. They were all reliving the past -- some from three decades ago and some from three days ago.
That was the case for sisters Heather Schlossman and Trisha Moliterno and their children.
"We both went to school here and have had our kids have come through," Schlossman said.
"My daughter ended up having the same fourth-grade teacher that I did," Moliterno added.
The sisters, who attended East Petersburg in the 1980s, said they will be sad to see a part of their family history be demolished.
"Elementary school is so special because it's where you make those first friends -- sometimes the only ones who really stick around," Moliterno said.
That rings true for Alexis Powders and Alexis Stoltzfus.
The 2012 Hempfield High School graduates stopped by their alma mater to get one last look around.
"We have a lot of great memories here, and we're really upset that it won't be here anymore," Powders said.
When Craig Schonour heard about the fate of his former school it brought memories flooding back that he hadn't thought about in decades.
That's why the alum, who now lives in southern Chester County, brought his wife and children to see the school before it gets torn down.
"I had a lot of good times here, and I wanted to show my kids where their dad spent his childhood," he said between posing for pictures outside the school.
Jerry and Carmen Richards were doing the same thing. But the pictures weren't for them -- they were for their son who now lives in Virginia.
The number one item he wanted a souvenir of, they said, was the school's trademark bell.
The Richards said they were happy to find out that there are plans to preserve the bell, as well as other key aspects of the old building and campus including two sculptures, the cornerstone and a collection of dedicated bricks from the front walkway.
Construction on a new school started a year ago, and is on schedule to open in the fall. Officials said it would have cost the district at least $1 million more to renovate than to build new.
The project is actually one of two currently underway in the district. Farmdale Elementary School will be replaced with a new facility as well.
Officials will welcome visitors to Farmdale Elementary from 1 to 3 p.m. May 11.
Dan Forry, Hempfield director of enterprise and operations, said the new buildings will "have more square footage but will probably see a 20 percent reduction in electric usage and utility usage."
During a presentation at the open house, Hempfield School Board President Bill Jimenez told the crowd that the building isn't what makes East Petersburg a great school -- it's the people.
"Everything will be new and more advanced, but we're counting on the people to bring with them the sense of community that has always made this school so special," he said.