Celebrating a school and its history is bittersweet. Former
students and teachers reconnect with old friends and trade stories with current
staff. They chuckle over their appearance in old photos and take one last look
at a place where they spent many happy days. It's an atmosphere of fun tempered
with a bit of sadness over the loss of a familiar friend, their school.
Washington Elementary School in Anoka was the first of eight
Anoka-Hennepin schools to hold its closing celebration. The schools will close at
the end of the school year due to declining enrollment and the need to use
district resources more efficiently. Washington's hallway, cafeteria and media center were crowded March 25 with
current and former school families who gather to honor the school that
connected them all. They viewed displays, toured the building, listened to the
music of the Anoka High School Jazz Band, and more.
Cathy (Davidson) Witte came with her parents, Carol and John
Davidson, and her children, Josh, a kindergartner at Rum River Elementary and
20-month-old Cate. They enjoyed paging through old yearbooks and showing Josh
pictures of his mom as an elementary school student. Mrs. Davidson recalled her
role in starting the first PAW group - Parents at Washington - while Witte
spoke with fondness of her favorite teacher, Mrs. Semanko, who came to her
wedding and stopped by to visit when Cate and Josh were born. "She was
wonderful. She made kids feel really special," said Witte.
Former Washington physical education teacher, Dean Hamre,
visited with his daughter, Tanya Prahl, and two grandchildren. All three of
Hamre's children attended Washington and two of his grandchildren will go to
sixth grade in the building when it becomes the sixth-grade campus for Fred
Moore and Sandburg Middle Schools, which will combine next year when Sandburg
They were pleased that Washington will remain in use as a
school, even if it is no longer an elementary school. Prahl said she enjoyed
attending Washington as a youngster and having her dad as her physical
education teacher. "We had great opportunities. I remember the book fairs and
the Pyramid Club, which was for kids who were ready for more challenging work,"
she said. She also has great memories of her principal, the late Peter Enich.
"Students could go and read to him in his office. I remember being excited but
also a little nervous to go visit the principal."
Community members are invited to attend the school closing celebrations
for the remaining schools, which will all be held Saturday, May 1. Call the school for more information.
Park View Early Childhood Center, Champlin, 10 a.m. to 1
Peter Enich Kindergarten Center, Anoka, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.,
Champlin Elementary School, Champlin: 1 to 4 p.m.,
L.O. Jacob Elementary School, Coon Rapids: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.,
Riverview Specialty School for Math and Environmental Science,
Brooklyn Park: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 763-506-4200
Sorteberg Elementary School, Coon Rapids: 1 to 4 p.m.,
Sandburg Middle School, Anoka, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.,
Photo caption: An attendee at the Washington Elementary School March celebration