Laughter and tears filled the halls of Burton Elementary last week as former students bid their final goodbyes to the school, which will close at the end of the year to make way for the new $42 million all-grade Berkshire Local School District building opening in January of 2022.
“It’s been here forever,” a tearful Megan Williams said.
There’s a family connection. Mrs. Williams, 50, of Burton Village is a school alumna. Her mother, Kathy Johnson, taught there for 35 years. Her daughter attended the school as well but was not at the Oct. 8 event.
“It’s a chapter that’s over and done,” she said of the 62-year-old elementary school, “but you know, it’s a new beginning and a fresh start.”
The new all-grade building will be 204,000 square feet and sits on 6 acres adjacent to the Kent State University-Geauga Campus.
Mrs. Williams recalled fond memories such as the routine fire and tornado drills.
“I don’t know why,” she said regarding the drills. “That just reminds me of when I was a little kid.”
The main goal of the open house was to provide as many opportunities as possible for families and alumni to have a final walk through the building, Principal Mandy Randles said.
Mrs. Randles, 41, of Munson Township, is an alumna of Berkshire and has been a district faculty member for 20 years, serving as a kindergarten teacher, athletic director and assistant principal of Burton before taking over as principal for the last 10 years.
She said that some of her best memories were “all of the times that you can bring people together” including open houses.
Mrs. Randles recalled working alongside her mother, Susie Burzanko, who taught at Berkshire for the last two years of her 30-year career.
Another favorite memory included the school’s pep rallies, she said.
“Our pep assemblies show the spirit that we have in the building,” she said.
Mrs. Randles said she wants to create “the same atmosphere” in the new building that was within Burton Elementary.
The open house also brings memories to former students, such as Rebekah Hess, who realized her future career while being in the school.
Mrs. Hess, 32, of Burton Village and a 10th generation student of Burton Elementary, recalled falling in love with teaching after having a class with current sixth-grade teacher Amy Hochschild, known by her maiden name of Vinecourt during Mrs. Hess’s tenure as a student.
“I had such a great experience with her ability to take care of me and really take me under her wing and helped me evolve into a student,” Mrs. Hess said. “It’s the reason I’m an English teacher.”
Mrs. Hess has been a fifth-grade language arts teacher at Burton Elementary for three out of her seven years teaching, a “life goal” of hers.
While noting the bittersweet feelings behind seeing the school prior to its closing, Mrs. Hess said that she is “nervous” to move into the new building.
“It’s a little nerve wracking to have something brand-spanking new,” she commented, adding that it helps to see all faculty and students move together. “It is hard to leave buildings and the small communities that we’ve built in each individual building, but I know that we can do so many project-based learning activities and things with all of us together in one place.”
Mrs. Hess said she is grateful for the support the school has received from the community.
“I’m just really grateful to be in such a loving atmosphere.”