Out of the old, into the new Essex school Once principal says go, students don't look back at 70-year-old building

November 29, 1995|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

"Boys and girls, take one last look at your classroom. Kiss it goodbye. It's a new adventure," said Principal James Wolgamott as he concluded yesterday's morning announcements.

BTC The countdown was over. No numbers were left in the windows above the front door of Essex Elementary School to mark the last days of the school. Instead, the sign said, "We move."

And, by 9:30 a.m., more than 500 Essex youngsters were moving into their new school, built just behind the old place on Mace Avenue.

With a few waves, but no backward glances, the youngsters left behind the 70-year-old, problem-filled building and greeted their new school with a rolling chorus of "coo-o-o-l" as class after class came through the front door.

"I thought it would be bigger, but it's pretty nice," said fifth-grader Kenny Carter.

"It's terrific," said Michael Dark, as he unpacked his belongings in his new second-grade classroom. "Where's the sink?"

The sink, with a drinking fountain, was a big draw in Becky Wood's class. So were the telephone the students couldn't touch and the brown chalkboards.

But Mrs. Wood's class clearly liked the red lockers best. In the old school, the youngsters had cubbies and coatrooms. Now, they had lockers, like big kids.

"Our new classroom is beautiful and clean," wrote second-grader Sima Pater-Rov as she tackled her first assignment -- a journal entry -- in the new school. "I like it because it has lots of new stuff."

OC That "stuff" includes science and computer laboratories, a tele

vision studio and an elevator. "This is the elevator; this is the elevator you will not be using," Mrs. Wood said. Beyond all that, the building has the potential for enough technology to get students well into the next century, its designers say.

But on their first day at the new Essex, Mrs. Wood's youngsters wanted to know where the supplies from the old classroom were kept, what all those outlets in the walls were for and -- most important -- where were the bathrooms and could they go.

It was an orderly opening of the long-awaited -- and, some say, overdue -- school. Within a half-hour, many classes were at work. Parents and other adults who gathered to watch the children's parade were invited in for a quick look. They also had lots of praise.

"Everybody just thinks this is beautiful," said Theresa Napieralski, whose granddaughter attended Essex until last year.

"They've got a lot more room. I already got lost once," said Rhonda Hans, an Essex alumna and mother of a second-grader. Mrs. Hans, who graduated in 1967, considered yesterday bittersweet as she remembered old times and former teachers amid the excitement of the new building.

However, few in the crowd longed for the old. Most seemed to feel like Kenny Carter.

When asked if he would miss his old school, the fifth-grader said, "Well, actually, no."

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