Time to say goodbye to Harris Elementary as its final days approach


By Jason Hawk - [email protected]



The familiar Harris Elementary archway will disappear soon. The 47-year-old school will be demolished this summer to make way for a new PK-3 building.


Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

Hunter Thornsberry heads the bus line at the end of the day.


Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

Madilyn Daviduk, Lance Buffa, and Danial Renner have a ball in class.


Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

YOUR MEMORIES

We asked News-Times followers on Facebook to share their memories of Harris Elementary. Here’s what they had to say:

Jillian Matotek DiFilippo: “I went to Harris as a child for K-4, I have a lot of memories in that building! I always loved how fun the sinks in the bathroom were and the huge cement pipes they used to have on the playground! I’m glad that at least one of my kids got to go there before it gets torn down.”

Susanne Naelitz: “I remember (principal Rhonda) Neuhoff going all-out to prep the students for the proficiency testing. I was a tutor at that time. She actually was placed on the roof of the school as we “raised the roof” with our testing scores. Another time we were pepped up with some popular members of the Cleveland Indians baseball team telling the students hard work pays off. Also another year we rocked out the scores with music as the teaching teams presented a rock tune they liked on stage at assembly. Always the students were served a pancake breakfast with all the trimmings the morning the testing began. Teachers and tutors and Mrs. Neuhoff all were flipping and serving as the students were excited about doing their best. Prizes were awarded randomly at the conclusion of the testing week. A really stressful time was turned into a festival of fun and lots of effort and encouragement. I loved being a part of Harris School.”

Becky Boden: “I went to Harris K-4 and it was my favorite school! The purple walls in the gym were so cool! I was so excited when I would walk in and see the trampoline up for the day. The bathroom sink was the coolest! Who would have thought you could turn on a sink with your feet? I also remember every year at Christmas we had to sing ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ to the secretary. Best of all, I had the best teachers! Some of my favorites were Mrs. Coffman, Mrs. Gelenius and Mrs. Gambish.”

L James Zilko: “It’s where kindergarten was for me. My daughter is in the last third grade class to enter the school. I remember the Right to Read Week quilts we made, which were hung on the gym walls. I wish I knew what happened to the quilts. I would’ve loved to get my patch back. My patch was about the book ‘Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel.’ I miss the big concrete pipes on the playground. I miss the blacktop path that went through the woods from Harris to Milan Avenue. I remember watching the news in the library as the Berlin Wall came down, I really didn’t know what was the big deal about the wall or why it was the there but the teachers knew it was important and I’m glad they made us watch it! It was the first school I rode my bike to also! I will miss that school very much!”

Ginger Lopez: “I never attended as a student but I did substitute teach lots… I am blown away! A wonderful school/building.”

Cheron Rebok: “I was there the very first year it opened. Honest to god, Mrs. Maroni is my fondest memory.”

Michelle Lockhart: “I went there for K-4 and the grades were divided up into areas with moveable chalkboards and cabinets used as classroom walls.”

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.

The familiar Harris Elementary archway will disappear soon. The 47-year-old school will be demolished this summer to make way for a new PK-3 building.
http://theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/web1_20170511_093051.jpgThe familiar Harris Elementary archway will disappear soon. The 47-year-old school will be demolished this summer to make way for a new PK-3 building.

Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

Hunter Thornsberry heads the bus line at the end of the day.
http://theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/web1_DSC_7012.jpgHunter Thornsberry heads the bus line at the end of the day.

Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

Madilyn Daviduk, Lance Buffa, and Danial Renner have a ball in class.
http://theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/web1_DSC_6990.jpgMadilyn Daviduk, Lance Buffa, and Danial Renner have a ball in class.

Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

By Jason Hawk

[email protected]

YOUR MEMORIES

We asked News-Times followers on Facebook to share their memories of Harris Elementary. Here’s what they had to say:

Jillian Matotek DiFilippo: “I went to Harris as a child for K-4, I have a lot of memories in that building! I always loved how fun the sinks in the bathroom were and the huge cement pipes they used to have on the playground! I’m glad that at least one of my kids got to go there before it gets torn down.”

Susanne Naelitz: “I remember (principal Rhonda) Neuhoff going all-out to prep the students for the proficiency testing. I was a tutor at that time. She actually was placed on the roof of the school as we “raised the roof” with our testing scores. Another time we were pepped up with some popular members of the Cleveland Indians baseball team telling the students hard work pays off. Also another year we rocked out the scores with music as the teaching teams presented a rock tune they liked on stage at assembly. Always the students were served a pancake breakfast with all the trimmings the morning the testing began. Teachers and tutors and Mrs. Neuhoff all were flipping and serving as the students were excited about doing their best. Prizes were awarded randomly at the conclusion of the testing week. A really stressful time was turned into a festival of fun and lots of effort and encouragement. I loved being a part of Harris School.”

Becky Boden: “I went to Harris K-4 and it was my favorite school! The purple walls in the gym were so cool! I was so excited when I would walk in and see the trampoline up for the day. The bathroom sink was the coolest! Who would have thought you could turn on a sink with your feet? I also remember every year at Christmas we had to sing ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ to the secretary. Best of all, I had the best teachers! Some of my favorites were Mrs. Coffman, Mrs. Gelenius and Mrs. Gambish.”

L James Zilko: “It’s where kindergarten was for me. My daughter is in the last third grade class to enter the school. I remember the Right to Read Week quilts we made, which were hung on the gym walls. I wish I knew what happened to the quilts. I would’ve loved to get my patch back. My patch was about the book ‘Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel.’ I miss the big concrete pipes on the playground. I miss the blacktop path that went through the woods from Harris to Milan Avenue. I remember watching the news in the library as the Berlin Wall came down, I really didn’t know what was the big deal about the wall or why it was the there but the teachers knew it was important and I’m glad they made us watch it! It was the first school I rode my bike to also! I will miss that school very much!”

Ginger Lopez: “I never attended as a student but I did substitute teach lots… I am blown away! A wonderful school/building.”

Cheron Rebok: “I was there the very first year it opened. Honest to god, Mrs. Maroni is my fondest memory.”

Michelle Lockhart: “I went there for K-4 and the grades were divided up into areas with moveable chalkboards and cabinets used as classroom walls.”

Amherst News Times
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