Community Gathers For Last ‘Hurrah’ At Laceyville School
It was brilliantly sunny but especially breezy at midday on June 3, as the PTO of Laceyville Elementary School (LES) hosted its final All-School Picnic on the grounds before the school closes forever this summer.
“You have to put lots of food on your plate to keep it from blowing away,” someone in the outdoor lunch line yelled to everyone behind her. The picnic fair consisted of hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans, coleslaw, macaroni salad, potato salad, and cupcakes. Most of the guests, including the students, followed the aforementioned instructions and piled the offerings high before finding a seat at cafeteria tables brought out to the parking lot or along the grassy banks adjacent to the playground.
According to the retired faculty members in attendance, the school was opened in 1961, reuniting a community that had been divided by the abrupt closing of the former Laceyville Elementary School in the late 1950’s due to termite infestation. For 50 years since, several generations of Laceyville-area children have grown physically, mentally, and emotionally within the walls of the classic brick school building.
“If this school building could talk, I think that it would say, ‘Thanks for the memories. I’ve enjoyed you walking in my halls and running on my playground,’” former LES head teacher Paulette Conrad said to the pupils, their families, and teachers former and current. “I think that the building would be satisfied. It did its job well.”
The school will continue to serve the community through Wednesday, June 15. Next year, all of the students and most of the faculty members will report to the expanded Wyalusing Area School District campus along Wyalusing-New Albany Road, where a new state-of-the-art elementary school will bring together kindergartners through sixth-graders from four former elementary buildings.
In addition to the hardy lunch, guests on June 3 enjoyed games and face painting outside, and a magic show in the all-purpose room. Teacher LuAnn Simcoe introduced the former teachers in the audience and invited each of them to share a few words and their fondest memories of the school. Voices cracked under the bittersweet ambiance of the final reunion, as the former faculty members in turn thanked each other for leadership and camaraderie.
Judy Muench, who was a student at the school when it opened and taught kindergarten and first grade from 1975-2007, was proud of the fact that her first students there were members of the first sixth-grade class to graduate from LES. Former fifth-grade teacher Carl Whitehead recalled taking the fifth- and sixth-graders sledding on a nearby hill before a fence was erected on the property line. Music teacher Dennis Dibble remembered the joy he had coordinating Christmas programs at the school, which involved both students and teachers.
“It was a pleasure to teach here,” said Dibble, who retired in 2006. “All of the teachers were so supportive and worked so well together.”
“It’s kind of sad. It’s a good school, and all of the teachers were very nice,” sixth-grader Devanie Heller said about leaving LES, even though she would have moved on to the junior high school next year whether or not the schools had been consolidated.
Laceyville resident Kim Cameron, who attended the picnic with her husband, Henry, agreed. “The teachers here really want the students to excel in what they are doing,” she stated, noting that two of their daughters and three of their grandchildren have attended LES. “They will miss the school,” Kim said of fifth-grader Kasar, second-grader Kashawn, and kindergartner Kamarah, who have seen the new building but were not overly optimistic about going there in the fall. “It will take a couple of months to iron everything out,” Kim suggested.
“I’d rather stay here. It’s been my goal since kindergarten,” asserted fifth-grader Wesley Spaeth, who enjoys math class. He admitted that he does look forward to meeting new people in the fall.
Whitehead encouraged the children and staff members to cherish the memories but to also look forward to their future at the new Wyalusing Area Elementary School.
“You are entering a new era, and it’s going to take some time adjusting,” he stated. “Times change, and we have to change with it. This school means a lot to me, and the new school will mean a lot to you. Work with it, and make the most of it.”