Hillside's last day of class slips by quietly
Students, families prepare for new schools in fall
This was more than the end of a school year - it was the end of an era.
With youngsters rushing out the door to waiting buses and parents at the end of the last day of school at Hillside Elementary, the June 7 scene only appeared normal.
After 43 years, the school is closing due to soft enrollment. Despite the objections of many parents and other supporters at hearings during the year, the School Board made the decision last winter.
Principal Julie Kremer, who is retiring, autographed bright red Hillside shirts worn by many of the students. A few teachers spent the last moments with their classes outside before the final bell. Parents gathered outside like they have for years.
Dawn Sherman arrived about 30 minutes before the end of the school day to go inside and say her goodbyes before picking up her second-grader.
"Yes, it's too bad the school is closing," she said, "but we'll be ready for Brook El next year. It will feel different, but we went to the open house earlier this year to get acquainted."
Kindergarten teacher Jenny Spek, who is going to Swanson next year, said she will miss the families as much as the kids.
"It's really like starting over," she said. "But you know, they are all good schools."
Karen Wendorf, an instructional resource teacher who will be assigned to Burleigh in the fall, said Hillside's closing "is sad, but I am looking forward to next year."
Emotions still high
Parents John and Jackie Hansen noted there are still a lot of hurt feelings among families who are losing their neighborhood school.
"We went to the open house at the new school with our kids and the kids there," Jackie said, "but I think it would have been better if we had our own open house with just our kids - at least for now."
The timing of the decision is still the rub, John said.
"The thing I'll say about it is that they (the School Board) rushed into closing the school," he said. "Why didn't they wait until the new superintendent was on board?"
Parent Greg Wagg tried to make the most of Hillside's last day. He decided the week before to arrange a group bicycle ride for the fifth-grade class from Brookfield's nearby Camelot Park to the school.
"My fifth-grader is the last of my five children at Hillside," Wagg said, who noted he felt fortunate to not have to deal with the same transfer blues other parents do. "I got the idea from my oldest kids, who used to participate in the tradition of riding bikes to school on the last day at Central. We had about 30 or 35 kids participate.
"Hillside is a great school and I just thought it would be a great way to make a memory."
Whatever the emotions, the last day carried on like the previous 42 last days, with teachers waving at students as they climbed aboard buses that slowly rolled out of the parking lot.
Only this time, it was the last time.
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