Goodbyes are never easy – especially when they’re for buildings with decades of education history in their walls.
In three-and-a-half months, a permanent goodbye for the Sugar Creek Elementary School and New Century School buildings will happen as students walk out the doors for the last time. In the meantime, current staff are working on ways for everyone to give them a proper send-off.
When the school district moves out of the buildings this summer, the 102 year old New Century School building is expected to stay standing, as it’s on the National Register of Historic Places, but Sugar Creek’s 64 year old, 64,000 square foot home will get demolished. The district is transferring ownership of the 12-acre site containing both schools later in the year to the City of Verona, which is expected to redevelop it.
Sugar Creek principal Todd Brunner said staff are working to keep the experience of moving a positive one for the students. They’re planning to do that with events that bring current Sugar Creek students and around 130 new ones who are changing schools with new attendance boundaries taking effect in the fall.
Those events include a public goodbye event Saturday, Feb. 29, a reading night in March at Badger Ridge Middle School, where Sugar Creek will be moving next year, orientation nights for new students and a symbolic “parade of books” for staff, students and families to walk the school’s books from the 420 Church Ave. location over to its new building, one mile to the north, at 740 N. Main St.
New Century School will also hold an open house in April, director Ann Princl said, to bring the students and families from both New Century and VAIS together for the first time.
The message that’s being given to students at Sugar Creek is more about honoring the building that held the school and the transition that everyone will be making, rather than saying goodbye to students who might be going to different sites as a result of boundary changes, Brunner said.
“We’re mostly trying to focus on the here and now,” he said. “There are kids in our school who won’t be back – we’re losing few, but we are losing some – and so we don’t want that to be what kids are focused on.”
The Feb. 29 goodbye the public can attend is from 1-3 p.m. at both Sugar Creek and New Century School. Attendees will have opportunities to walk through the both buildings and look at the classrooms, historical displays and a video memory recording station.
Staff are still working on developing projects after that, Princl said, for students to say goodbye to the building. In the meantime, teachers are incorporating conversations about moving buildings into classroom learning.
“The social-emotional learning piece is something our classroom teachers and our school counselor will be taking an active part in within the classrooms so we can be sure we give students that opportunity to share how they’re feeling, share how this experience is affecting them,” she said.
Brunner said the school has started to prepare students for the move by going into second, third and fourth grade classrooms and discussing what the new building will be like and showing them maps.
“We’ve done a lot just talking about it,” he said. “It’s been more focusing on the positive, and that was not an accident.”
Both Brunner and Princl said that even though the buildings will be different in the fall, the people who make the school’s environment what it is will be the same.
“We’ve done a lot of good work in this school,” he said. “This is an opportunity to include more students and families in that good work … even though the building will be gone, a school culture is a school culture, that’s not building-dependent.”
Princl said that even though the students and staff will miss the connections that were made with Sugar Creek and Stoner Prairie, they’re excited to transition into one building together.
“We have these great staffs that are going to take all of those gifts and talents that they have, and bring that with them, and then we will create that amazing community there,” she said. “Four walls are a great thing, but it’s the people.”