It’s stood since 1970 but Harris Elementary School is not long for this world.
The building is set to come crashing down within the next few months to make way for a new prekindergarten through third grade school. So as the academic year winds down, teachers are saying goodbye to the familiar halls.
A few fourth grade teachers have called the building home for two decades, said principal Beth Schwartz.
“They’re nervous about moving, but at the same time they’re excited about going to Nord (Middle School) next fall and eventually having much more space when the new school opens,” she said.
Nostalgia is also strong among alumni and parents and the News-Times has fielded quite a few questions about how they can make their final farewells to the school.
Schwartz said no public tours or ceremony have been planned, but you may be able to buy keepsakes. An online auction will begin at 8 a.m. on Monday, May 29 at www.publicsurplus.com, with various items from both Harris and the former Shupe Elementary, which will also be raised. There are also plans to sell salvaged bricks later this year to benefit the Amherst Schools Endowment Fund.
The school is also incredibly special to Schwartz. She was an intervention specialist at Nord until her promotion to Harris principal in 2011.
“To me, this building has helped create a wonderful family-like environment, both with staff and students. It’s nice to see how supportive everyone is of each other,” she said.
Even though the building will be torn down, the spirit of its staff will remain the same, she said. Schwartz said she probably won’t cry when ‘dozers tear into the school, but she’ll have to fight tears saying goodbye to the teaching family when the doors close May 25.
They’ve built many memories and a feeling of welcomeness, she said.
Next year, Schwartz will be principal at Powers Elementary School, taking over for the retiring Debbie Waller and overseeing prekindergarten to second grade. In the meantime, she’ll have to say goodbye to her third and fourth grade staff, which will report to Nord principal Bill Miller.
“I’ll miss them so much,” she said. “At the same time, it’s exciting to get to be with kids who are just starting their school experience.”
When the new PK-3 school opens, it will adopt the Powers name and Schwartz will remain at the helm.
That means she has a vested interest in how the new school is designed. Schwartz has been in talks with architects at the GPD Group, mapping out priorities such as storage space, the need for parent conference rooms, areas where kids can do group work, a physical media library, an art room that can hold a kiln for pottery, a separate gymnasium and cafeteria, and plenty of room for indoor recess so kids can burn energy during winter months.
The plan is to tour other schools to see how modern layouts have worked out with real students in the hallways, not just how neat they look on paper.
She’s also working to make sure the Harris garden, which provides fresh produce for the cafeteria while teaching kids about science, is carried on at the new Powers school.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
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