Tonawanda News — Since 1925, children have flooded out of Gilmore Elementary on the last day of school, giddy at the start of summer. On Wednesday they left for the last time — eager to begin their time off, down the halls that have held generations of students and educators, over worn floor tiles, past an outdated interior and into a new beginning.
In September, when the 2012-2013 school year begins, there will be different faces and teachers as well as a change of scenery all together, as instructors and pupils alike begin a transformation to the four remaining elementary schools in the district.
“Gilmore has been a part of our hearts and souls,” said Bonnie Hathaway, who has been teaching at the school for 27 years. “It’s been our home.”
That sentiment was repeated again and again, in interviews with teachers and students, who said that Gilmore was more than just a school, but a place with a tight-knit staff who treated the children under their charge with extra care.
“We were the children’s foster parents in many regards,” said Hathaway, who will move to Meadow Elementary in August along with some of her collegaues and students.
Elizabeth Creed, who has taught English as a second language since 2002 at Gilmore, said her students have voiced their concerns since it was announced this year that the school would close.
“They’ve been worried about staying with friends in the same school, worried about staying with their siblings,” Creed said. “I think the kids are just as emotional about the move as the teachers. They have had anxieties about it.”
One of those students is Darina Shiskina, 9, who will enter fifth grade at Ohio Elementary next year. She moved to the United States from Kazakhstan three years ago.
“Some of my teachers that I really love I wish would be there,” she said.
That won’t necessarily be the case, though all of the Gilmore teachers will have jobs within the district next year, according to Superintendent Greg Woytila.
Principal Victoria Pohlmanwill also be moving. She taught at Gilmore for several years before later returning to take the helm as its top administrator and will be become the principal at Spruce next year.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” she said. “A very emotional time right from the get-go, from the rumors to the closing
finally becoming a reality. This has been my home. I know the kids, I taught with a lot of the staff. We’ve been through a lot together and now we’re going off on our separate ways.”
A transition team will continue through the logistics of moving the books and supplies to other schools later this summer, Pohlman said — a colossal task by anyone’s standards.
Parents, meanwhile, are left to figure out how the new system will affect their children.
Rick Kuligowski, moved back to North Tonawanda from Florida after being away for several years. He purchased a home on Gilmore Avenue largely because of the ease of getting his kids off to the school, including his son Jacob who just finished kindergarten and will now attend Meadow.
“I know it’s an old school and needs work and I kind of understand that,” he said. “But it doesn’t make it easier.”
But Pohlman said that despite an initial onslaught of confusion and emotions from her students and staff, things have settled down, while difficulties of moving and the attachments that have been cemented at the school will subside.
“They’re all good schools in the district and our kids our very adaptable,” she said. “There were a lot tears shed today because a lot of people are going in different directions. But they’ll take there spirit with them, I’m sure. Everything is going to be just fine.”Contact Reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.