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Tue., May. 5
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R.I.P., Sherman Elementary School

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A treasured piece of my childhood is being sold later this year.

I’ve known for some time that the Ogdensburg City School District was going to close Sherman Elementary School. When I first heard, I remember feeling a kind of passive understanding that the district had to cut costs; all things must eventually end; change is inevitable and so on.

But when we reported last week that the school would close sooner rather than later – at the end of this school year instead of next – the reality of it sunk in. The building that hosted some of the happiest days of my childhood will be empty and silent come June 30.

Coming face to face with the reality of it made me a lot sadder than I expected. It’s funny how it doesn’t seem like that long ago that Cindy Wilson was reading to us as we sat in a circle around her, surrounded by colorful Alphabet People in her kindergarten class, or playing with the full-sized parachute in gym class. Remember the parachute? Even if you didn’t get along with another kid in your class, you could all be friends while sitting on the edge of a parachute to hold it down as it ballooned above, creating a silky fabric dome that seemed to defy gravity until it eventually sank and covered you. It was the coolest activity ever in my early school universe.

Sherman was where I ate paste after a classmate told me how good it was, then tried to scrape the horrible taste off my tongue with a piece of construction paper. It was where I learned how important it is to share my toys and listen to others. It was the first place I had away from my home and my parents where I felt safe and secure. It was where I made my first and, in some cases, life-long friends.

After this school year ends, no more children will laugh in Sherman’s halls. The more I think about that, the sadder I get.

Sadder yet is the likely answer to the question of who would buy it once the district puts it on the market. Who exactly is in the market for a former school? Businessman James Ma already bought one for his English-as-a-second-language school. Does he need another?

Doubting that he does, I fear that there will be no takers on the building for a long time or maybe ever. I fear that it will stand vacant and rotting. I fear that yet another of our city’s beautiful old buildings will be neglected until somebody makes it a date with the wrecking ball. That’s a thought I just can’t bear.

I hope those fears are imaginary. Maybe somebody will want to convert it to office space. Maybe somebody will want to start a private nursery school or a place for adult education classes. Maybe somebody wants to set themselves up in a cool pad with their own cafeteria, library and gym that doubles as an auditorium.

I hope city school officials care about the building enough to make sure it doesn’t meet the wrecking ball. I hope they do everything they can to find someone who will care for, preserve and use it, even if its future doesn’t include the laughter of children.

Those thoughts will help me as I mourn the loss of a school that hosted part of my happy childhood. R.I.P., Sherman School. You will be missed.

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