Peeking around caution tape and gaping at the gym floor that’s now reduced to kindling, about 400 came out Thursday for a goodbye tour of Shupe Elementary School.
“I swear this gym was bigger,” said Amanda Henry, who attended in 1994-1995 and hadn’t been in the building for two decades.
Shupe is slated for demolition, most likely in mid-September.
There are big weeds growing out of the roof, wires dangling from the ceiling, and doors marked as having asbestos inside. None of that seemed as real as the memories of those who walked the halls one final time.
“I watched the Space Shuttle Challenger explode in that classroom,” said Lisa Michaels, pointing to a darkened door. It had been Jan. 28, 1986, and all of America was shocked as the shuttle became a fireball 73 seconds into its ascent, killing all seven astronauts on board.
“That was one of those things you never forget,” she said.
Michaels was among the few students who attended Shupe Elementary for five years because of grade-shuffling that happened while she grew up.
Others used their noses to spark memories.
“I really miss the lockers. It always smelled like bubble gum,” said Lucy Fenik.
“This school smelled different from any other school here in Amherst. It had a distinct smell. It was bright,” recalled Mark Washka.
Longtime school board member Ron Yacobozzi looked wistfully down the main hall. “This was the first school I came to in Amherst. It was the fourth grade,” he said. That was 55 years ago.
The tour crowd included former staff, too.
Ruth Ann McCarbery taught sixth grade at Shupe in 1965 before taking another job in Elyria. “I came because my husband, Richard, was one of the first four professors at the newly-created Lorain County Community College,” she said.
Phyllis Berger was a fifth grade special education teacher at the same time, staying on for six years. “My fondest memory was team teaching with Connie Opferman,” she said. “We were some of the first to do team teaching.”
About 300 attended a similar farewell tour Wednesday at Harris Elementary School.
Harris and Shupe will be torn down as part of a package deal. The demolition is tied to the construction of a new PK-3 school where Harris stands (for now) on South Lake Street.
The project cost is roughly $32 million with demolition included.
Voters agreed in November to re-up a property tax used to build Amherst Junior High. That means that while your tax rate won’t go up (unless your property value increases), land owners will pay the tax longer.
Groundbreaking for the new school will begin next year and it will open in July 2019. Powers Elementary School will also be torn down once kids move into the new building.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.