WICHITA — Kids walked out the doors of Lincoln Elementary School into summer for the last time Wednesday afternoon.
They hugged teachers goodbye and left with their parents and grandparents to face a new future at some other school.
Lincoln Elementary, at 1210 S. Topeka, is the oldest of the five Wichita schools that are closing for good this year in as the district realigns attendance boundaries. It opened in 1885 with three teachers in six classrooms. The current building opened on the same site in 1938.
Its 320 students will be dispersed to four different schools next fall.
Out in front in the school, Roberta Bradley, a second-grade teacher who has been at Lincoln for 13 years, threw her arms around student after student, occasionally taking a moment to brush away a tear.
“They’ll be scattered all over, and it’s hard,” she said. “They started out rough, and I want them to do good things with their life. That’s the hardest part of this, letting them go to another school where I can’t care for them.”
Parents and grandparents who were waiting to take the kids home were sad, too.
Patsy Morales, who was picking up seven grandchildren, said the kids were upset because they had wanted to go the same school for all of their elementary-school years. They will be separated next year, she said.
She’s been picking them up for their mothers, who work. She wonders how she’ll get them all next year.
“I can’t be four places at once,” said Morales, who also attended Lincoln.
Allan Knost, who was waiting for his granddaughter, was upset.
“I don’t know why they’re closing it,” he said. “You got all this property, and you could’ve added on. I don’t understand it. It’s just going to cause hardships for a lot of these parents.”
A new boundary plan approved by the Wichita school board in March closes Lincoln and three other elementary schools – Bryant, Emerson, and Mueller – as a cost-cutting measure. The Mueller Aerospace Magnet program will move to the current Isely Traditional Magnet building, 2500 E. 18th. The plan also moves Northeast Magnet High School, 1847 N. Chautauqua, to a new school being built at 53rd North and Rock Road.
Metro-Boulevard Alternative High School, near Lincoln and Grove, will close this year because officials discovered shifting in some walls that they said would be too costly to repair. That program will move to the current Northeast Magnet building in the fall.
Superintendent John Allison has said the district doesn’t have specific plans for any of the schools slated for closure and isn’t sure whether there are parties interested in buying or leasing them. He told board members he hopes to compile a master plan of district properties and present options in coming months.
In the meantime, the district will monitor and care for its properties, said Julie Hedrick, division director of facilities.
First day, last day
As the students at Lincoln spent their final day, three members of the school’s first kindergarten class in 1938 toured the building.
Clay Lacy, who has two aviation charter companies on the West Coast, flew in from Van Nuys, Calif., Wednesday morning. Patsy Boles came by car with her husband, Paul, from their cattle ranch near Liberal on Tuesday night. They all met up with Ken Short, a retired pastor from Wichita.
They are three of only four surviving members of the class.
They were there for the first day, they said, so they wanted to be there for the last.
Years melted away as they walked through the building.
They remembered playing shuffleboard in what is now the boiler room.
They remembered what the old floor looked like in their former kindergarten room. They remembered how they used to spread blankets for naps, and how the teacher, Miss Taylor, used to tell them the Sandman was coming to make them sleepy.
They didn’t remember all the lion paws on the walls, but that’s because the school – now known as the Lincoln Lions – didn’t have a mascot in those days.
“Oh, I just hope they don’t tear this building down,” Boles said.
She said the decision to close the school was ridiculous.
“I’m very upset about it,” she said.
Lacy said the school looked almost as good as it did in 1938.
“I’m absolutely amazed at how good it looks now,” he said. “I’m not sure why they built a new school at the cost of building nowadays, and are closing a good facility.”
Short said he didn’t know how the district was saving money with the move.
In the main hallway, Rodney Petersen, the school’s counselor for five years, handed the three of them Lincoln Elementary T-shirts.
Later, as he removed anti-bullying signs from a bulletin board, he said the school’s closing meant some kids were facing change for the first time in their lives. So were some of their parents.
“A lot of people are growing,” he said.
Contributing: Suzanne Perez Tobias of the Eagle