05/19/17 — Students bid farewell to Meadow Lane hall

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Students bid farewell to Meadow Lane hall

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 19, 2017 9:57 AM

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Meadow Lane Elementary School fourth-grader Madison Pridgen points to her artwork segment of the "graffiti wall" at the school.

Since learning that portions of Meadow Lane Elementary School will be demolished this summer to make way for a new building, staff have come up with creative ways to commemorate the occasion.

"Some of us are a little saddened to see this building go -- it has been here for almost 60 years," said school counselor Michelle Gurley, in her 24th year at the school. "And although we will be getting a brand new school in the 2018 school year, there is an emotional connection to the building itself."

The fourth-grade hall and media center are slated for demolition sometime in June, she said.

There are lots of memories within those walls, she said, likening it to tearing down a home.

Fourth-grade teacher Emily West, recently named the district's Teacher of the Year, did her internship at the school and has been there ever since.

"I have been in this room since I started 15 years ago," she said of Room 9. "It's the only classroom with carpet.

"I'm very excited for the school but there's so many memories on this hall."

When she learned it was going to be torn down, she came up with an idea to ease the transition.

She approached administration for permission to make an end-of-grade "graffiti wall."

"I wanted to make something fun and memorable for the kids," she said. "They were so excited. They got to write on the wall."

Every student in fourth-grade was given a math word and a reading word.

It was a teachable moment as well as a creative one.

"We have a list of academic vocabulary words. We focus on the words that may appear on their end-of-grade tests, words we've been working on all year long," she explained. "I also used it as an incentive, like when they finish their work, 'you get to head out to the graffiti wall.'"

The process was to plan it out, incorporating the word and something about it into a rough draft, a "sloppy copy" before committing to a finished product in the hallway.

Fourth-grader Madison Pridgen's words were simile, title, subtitle and denominator, incorporated into three different squares outside her classroom.

"I was like, oh, writing on the walls is pretty fun," the 10-year-old said.

She admitted she had to think about it a bit at first, but quickly embraced the exercise.

"I mean, you're drawing on the walls," she said with a smile.

Madison and a classmate were also part of a trend that came out of the activity -- writing "RIP Meadow Lane" in one of the squares.

It took off from there, Miss West said. As students passing through that hallway noticed it, there was a ripple effect.

"I even heard someone say in the bus line, 'What does RIP mean?' Rest in peace, Meadow Lane. We're getting a new school. This building's not going to be here much longer. And Miss West will be a basket case," the teacher said with a laugh.

She will not be going far, though.

"We're moving all the classroom teachers on the hall to the third-grade hall and then our resource teachers like Michelle and EC (exceptional children), they have been dispersed throughout the campus."

Mrs. Gurley is actually returning to an office she formerly had.

The counselor just may hold the record for the most moves, Miss West said, not entirely in jest.

"A lot of our staff members will be in a pod (temporary classrooms), the ones that are having to move out of the third-grade hall to make room for fourth-grade teachers," Mrs. Gurley said, explaining that the school's principal, Wendy Hooks, wants to have all teachers together in the main building.

The original plan called for construction to begin over the summer, when school is not in session.

At a recent PTA meeting, though, officials announced they are a bit behind schedule, Mrs. Gurley said.

"They still don't have a contractor. They were starting to accept bids, I think," she said. "But they're still hoping to start in June. With 'perfect weather,' they anticipate it will be completed by the 2018 school year."

While staff is looking forward to a brand new facility, they hope to mark the bittersweet end of an era in another way -- a group photo of past and present employees of the school before the building is torn down.

"Lifetouch is going to come and take the picture for us on June 13 at 11 a.m.," Mrs. Gurley said. "We would like to get the word out so that anyone who has ever worked at MLE can take part in the picture in front of the school.

"We're trying to find as many people who have either taught or worked at Meadow Lane. It doesn't have to be a teacher. There may be one who started in 1958. We just haven't found that person yet."