Hillside Elementary School Principal Julie Kremer had her notes in order, prepared to talk about the events leading up to the school's closing after June 7.
It is indicative of her detail-oriented approach to remembering and celebrating the end of the school's history, which began in 1969 and ends this year. Elmbrook is closing the school after school lets out for the year in response to the district's enrollment and finance issues.
Most Hillside students will move to Brookfield Elementary, with Open Enrollment students going to Burleigh Elementary.
Kremer said May 9 open houses will help parents and students get to know their new schools. On May 24, a community event marking the school's final days is expected to draw about 3,000 visitors.
"It will be partly a memorial, definitely a celebration," Kremer said. "It's like a reunion because we expect so many visitors who are current students, parents and staff and former parents, students and staff."
With 43 years to recall, the event will include memorabilia important to each decade displayed on tables and walls in separate hallways.
Music students will perform numbers from recent plays and pageants, and refreshments will be served.
The May 24 event will be wrapped in a theme that has been a Hillside hallmark: hearts. Each class is busy making heart-oriented decorations for the occasion.
Kremer said Hillside's Capturing Kids Hearts initiative began 10 years ago when she attended a conference that included a presentation by Flip Flippen, a nationally recognized speaker and psychotherapist. What she brought back was the training and establishment of a school culture in which teachers meet and greet each student daily and present a social contract in each classroom focusing on the ideal of respecting one another through empathy and responsibility.
Kremer said she hopes that the culture, by virtue of staff and students moving to other schools, can be carried over. But before that happens, she knows that members of the Hillside family are going through various moods anticipating the closure.
"If you look at the continuum, there is an acceptance," she said. "Teachers are really in a mode of supporting students in making the transition.
"The staff has gone from anger to acceptance, from sadness to excitement and from anticipation to, 'Oh, I don't know how to get around that building.' "
The school will continue its ending recognition efforts with a final student assembly June 5 and a field day that traditionally has been filled with picnicking and games.
The last day will be June 7.
Though Hillside teachers and staff will be retained in the district, but Kremer is retiring.
She plans on continuing her career, possibly through consulting work.
"I've worked in other districts here in Wisconsin and out of state," Kremer said. "I told the staff they can adjust with the changes and they will be fine. They have all been to Brookfield Elementary, where they will be working, and they have had the opportunity to see the environment. I'm confident for them."
Third-grade teacher Jeffrey Karbowski said he and his fellow teachers are anticipating the change.
"I think we are all going through the same things," he said. "We love our school, but we know we will still be in a good district. We'll have to make some adjustments, but at least we will see a lot of familiar faces."
Parents accepting, wary
Parents have differing viewpoints.
"We live only five doors away from the school," said Ginny Bruemmer, "so we are very disappointed with the decision to close Hillside. It's so sad, but I wanted to be part of the process of moving forward and that's the reason I became part of the transition team. I wanted to turn this into a positive."
"Brook El is two miles away," she said. "It will be different, but I think it will be OK."
Ilse Frayer, who lives almost as close as Bruemmer to Hillside, said, "There are still a lot of hurt feelings about the closure. We don't know what will happen to the building with the closure and we don't think there is another fit.
"Enrollment has always been cyclical, and I've been told that 30 percent of the neighbors in our subdivision are original owners," Frayer said. "A lot of people could sell to younger families who are interested in living near a neighborhood school."
WHAT: Hillside Elementary closing event and activities
WHEN: 5 to 8 p.m. May 24
WHERE: Hillside Elementary, 2260 Lynette Lane
TO HELP: (262) 785-3940, firstname.lastname@example.org
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