Pangborn's last day is bittersweet



May 31, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN - Bonnie Brown cried last weekend as she boxed up the wall hangings in her fourth-grade classroom at Pangborn Elementary School.

Sarah Miller got choked up Friday as she talked about taking down the paper rainbow in the hallway.

"It's bittersweet, leaving," said Miller, whose two daughters attend the school. "It's going to be so nice, but it's homey here."

Last days of school can be marked by a mix of excitement and sadness.

Those feelings were amplified Friday at Pangborn Elementary School, as students, teachers and administrators prepared not only for a new year, but for a new school.

This summer, Pangborn Elementary will be torn down and replaced by a new, larger building, already under construction next door.

Pangborn is one of three elementary schools under construction. Maugansville, Rockland Woods and Pangborn elementary schools are scheduled to open in the fall.


Some teachers at Pangborn recalled with nostalgia watching their own children go through the school, which is more than 50 years old.

"When I first came here to sign my kids up, I was kind of weary," said JoEllen Snowden, a paraprofessional for special education at Pangborn whose three children attended the school. "It was an old building. It had a sign about a fallout shelter out front."

Snowden said her concerns disappeared after she met other parents and teachers and found the community to be "as warm and inviting as you could hope for."

Jennifer Hayes, a school business manager for Maugansville Elementary School, said many people are concerned about losing the sense of community that has been cultivated at their schools.

"It's a real worry at both places. People are afraid that it will get lost in going to a bigger building," Hayes said.

Principal Richard Gehrman said many people at Pangborn have said they will miss the old school, but he thinks those feelings will die quickly when they start work in the new facility.

"I think most people will be so glad to have air conditioning that they will forget pretty fast about this building," Gehrman said.

The new school will have two floors, bathrooms in every classroom and an expanded media center with an attached patio. It will have a full-size gymnasium, ball fields and separate entrances for buses and cars.

The school's 11 portable classrooms no longer will be needed.

Construction on the first floor of the new building is nearing completion, and by the end of next week the first-grade wing of the old building will be emptied so crews can begin demolishing it to make room for a bus loop.

First-grade teacher Joni Smith showed a movie to her class while she packed up the last few boxes of supplies Friday.

"I'm hoping to finish packing today. I don't want to come in this weekend," Smith said.

Brown, who has been a teacher at the school for 32 years, acknowledged Friday that she has been slower in packing than some other teachers.

"I will be here this weekend. Some people are more ready for this than I am," Brown said.

While she is sad to leave the school that has been "her life" for the past three decades, Brown said she is excited to get out of the portable classroom in which she currently teaches.

She thinks the new building will create a sense of respect and responsibility in the students who attend next fall.

"I'm not scared of losing the sense of community. I think it will bring people closer together," Brown said.

Still, she said she will not be able to watch workers demolish the building.

"No way. I can't watch that. I do want a brick, though."

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