I’ve spent much of my (largely non-existent) thinking and quiet time the past year deciding how I would write my final post regarding our dear Larrabee Elementary and the closing of a small, historic school. I know that many of my Facebook friends have likely grown tired of my Larrabee posts on the subject. However, each of my posts was well-thought out and crafted before I clicked “post.” I thought each snippet and picture was important to help capture the closing process, and I wanted to honor in some small way our school, children, and families.
I love history, community, friends, and moments. The last two years, from the initial motion to close our school, to the school board vote to close it, to our last year spent celebrating and honoring our Larrabee families past and present, have been an experience most of us never wanted to experience, but one in which we have learned and gained so much.
There were several families, who upon hearing the final vote to close Larrabee, pulled their children from the school. I don’t blame them. I half-considered it myself as I weighed my options. I could integrate my children into their new schools more quickly, avoid what one parent called “the slow death” of our school, and basically just cut ties and move on. My son entered kindergarten this year; should I have him spend one year at a school doomed for closure, or put him in the school in which he’d finish his elementary years?
The principals from the two schools our children will now attend, as well as our own Larrabee principal, have been supportive and kind during this transition for our children and families. I remain surprised and unimpressed by some personal friends and parents from other Bellingham schools who could not have cared less about our children or the transition and offered no support or care at all. I hope when and if your school closes or you ever need help, you will meet with a different and more caring response.
Anyway, along with many other families, I decided to stay put for Larrabee’s final year. My daughter is delightfully happy at Larrabee. My son would have a great year. I was committed to helping give Larrabee Elementary the closing year it deserved after serving as a public elementary school for 124 years. I have to say that I am proud, pleased, and have a peaceful heart about what we ALL did this past year to make that happen.
Throughout this entire process, I grew closer to many folks at Larrabee than I would have otherwise. We grew to appreciate and respect each other while engaging in the challenge to save Larrabee, discussing the bond and school board issues, attending community and school board meetings, and finally, to the acceptance that we had lost on all fronts. We grieved, we hurt, we felt angry. Finally, the only thing left to do was pick up the pieces and move on in the most positive manner possible for our children and families.
And so it ends. I am proud of what we did. We held the jog-a-thon fundraiser even while people wondered why we would waste our time for a school to close. We held our movie nights in our little gym, where the kids wore pajamas and the parents popped the popcorn. We continued our after-school enrichment activities (the most active in the city). We held our evenings of hip hop, choir, drama, and strings performances. Children painted salmon that now hang along the Larrabee fence; a permanent mark of their time at our school and a symbol of their migration to the next.
I sat at the bottom of the stairs near the gazebo with my toddler most every afternoon this year, waiting for my two “big kids” to emerge from the doors and descend the Larrabee steps. I gathered my kindergartener and second-grader to my side for after-school hugs before releasing them to run and play on the school grounds. I talked with some parents, annoyed others, and laughed with many. All the while savoring each moment, for I knew it was all about to end and it was going to be a very quick year. It was.
We participated in the parade, featuring bright yellow-and-black banners. Hundreds of Larrabee Bees and their families dressed in Larrabee spirit wear and cheered. We held a “Then-And-Now-Night” that honored the old-timers and the rich history of Larrabee. The PTA spent our last Larrabee funds on bouncy houses, pizza, music, and ice cream for the Larrabee community for the end-of school block party, which everyone enjoyed and earned a front-page article and great video in our local newspaper.
So, this is it. My final Larrabee post. It’s sadly, officially, time to move on. Some friends will travel together to our new schools and some will not. We will always see each other in our side of town, at activities, at the grocery store.
The closure of our school is not what most of us wanted, but it is what it is. Am I sad? Yes. Angry? Yes. It’s a sad day for small neighborhood schools everywhere. Although I don’t always succeed, I remind and encourage myself regularly to not give in to my feelings of anger and sadness.
I try to look at it as a great lesson for the little ones and a reminder for the parents; things don’t always happen the way you’d like. Regardless, you must pick up the pieces, put on a smile, learn something, and move forward.
And that’s what we are all doing.
Love you, our little brick Larrabee Elementary on the hill, and all of your staff, children, and families! Thank you for 124 years, and for one final lesson in how say goodbye with grace and dignity.