Sasha Nelson: The next evolution of Craig’s East Elementary
CRAIG — Change is an uneasy thing. It can sit in the belly like a bunch of angry butterflies, or it can feel like a rush of a carnival ride. Sometimes, it creeps in, embracing our lives in unexpected ways.
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything,” wrote Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist George Bernard Shaw.
Change has come to our community and is being felt by students, parents and the staff of East Elementary School. This week, they said goodbye to the school’s final kindergarten through fifth-grade graduates.
East Elementary School opened in 1960 and has closed as an elementary school. The building will now transform into an Early Childhood Education Center and head office for the school district administration.
“It is sad to close our school this year, but it has been an honor to be the principal for East Elementary’s last eight years,” said Principal Sarah Hepworth.
Over the past year, it’s been my duty to write about key steps in the decision-making process that will see the school’s purpose change.
In December, when the community learned the name of the Craig school that would close, it was an emotional moment for many and a poignant moment for me. East was my school — the first elementary school I attended.
Eight principals and 298 staff members have worked at East, and thousands of students have walked its halls since it opened. It has undergone various grade configurations during 58 years as an elementary school.
In recent times, for six consecutive years, the school was highly rated by the state of Colorado for student achievement, Hepworth said.
During my time at East, classroom space was limited. I went to some of my classes in a modular trailer. I was told those buildings were relocated and are still used for the library in Maybell.
Twice, the school added wings to accommodate student population growth.
A constant architectural feature is the school’s brick corner support. With it’s two circular cutout windows, it’s one of my favorite places. I recall how my arms would ache from the effort to pull my little body up the red brick of the circular windows.
There was always a tipping point — a moment when I would teeter, hold my breath, feeling as if I were falling as images of my face smashed on the concrete sidewalk ran through my head — then, I would swing my feet up and nestle into the space as I waited for my parents to collect me.
Change can feel like a tipping point. Like we are teetering, ready to fall.
Settled into my little nook, I was sheltered from the winter wind and summer sun. I remember the warmth of the sunbaked bricks, their rough edges and how they smelled of earth.
I felt brave. I felt big. I felt safe.
“The life lessons learned within the context of an elementary school cannot be replicated or learned anywhere else. Relationship building, learning challenges and celebrations are a daily part of our lives every day, every month and every year,” said Hepworth.
Change is also a part of our every day lives. We can try and let it wash over us. We can let it wrap us up in a warm embrace it, or we can resist it. Try as we might to resist, in order to progress, to advance and to grow, as Shaw said, we must change.
Perhaps if we have a baby boom and Craig starts to grow again, East will have a chance to revert back to a full-service elementary school. Having dug through the data and borne witness the debate and struggle of school officials in making this decision, I believe that it’s time for my first grade school to change.
Before the physical changes are made to East, staff, students, parents, alumni and the community are invited to celebrate new and old traditions during the “Grand Finale,” a celebration at the school from noon to 3 p.m. Monday, May 28.
“I want to thank every parent that shared their children with us and allowed us to be a part of their family,” Hepworth said. “I know these sentiments are representative of all the educators that have walked these halls over the 58 years that East Elementary has been serving children.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.