So long, Lincoln

Hundreds of hands were just shy of reaching all the way around Lincoln; still, the memories student and staff have made during the school&

s 79-year history stretched through the generations.



During the school&

s farewell open house on Thursday afternoon, Lincoln alumni and neighbors joined the approximately 200 current students, staff and volunteers to say good-bye to the beloved institution. The three-hour open house featured an art show, as well as music and dance performances by current students. Alumni from throughout the Valley &

and a 1927 graduate who now lives in Beaverton &

stopped by, along with neighborhood residents.

&

It&

s very sad,&

said Gertie Werner-Hess, a life-long Ashland resident who graduated from Lincoln in 1927.

Her husband, Parker Hess, graduated from the school in 1928. Her sister, as well as the Hess&

s three children attended Lincoln and some grandchildren have gone through the school.

&

Not an awful lot has changed,&

Werner-Hess said, though she noticed the old play shed behind the building is gone and a stage has been added to the gymnasium sometime in the past 70 years.

Kent Patton, a 1975 Lincoln alum, discovered a favorite fourth-grade pastime is still within reach &

climbing into the attic and crawling above the classrooms. Patton, whose daughter Lily is a Lincoln fourth-grader, had to check out an unmarked door in the north hallway, just down from the gymnasium.

&

I wanted to see if the stairs to the attic are still there,&

he said as he opened the door, stepped onto a white wooden ladder attached to the wall and pushed aside a plywood square covering a crawl space leading to the attic. &

They are.&

On Thursday afternoon, he made one final venture above the classrooms.

The rationale

The School Closure Committee was formed in June 2002 to develop a criteria for school closure and rank each of the elementary schools through that structure. The school board, under the direction of then-chair John Maurer, had decided to pursue the possibility of closing one or two of the elementary schools in the district. The committee of parents and school representatives met a dozen times in six months and, at the Dec. 2, 2002, school board meeting, recommended the closure of Briscoe Elementary School. Lincoln rated second on the to-be-shuttered list.

Briscoe remained open through the school year; it has not been used as an elementary school for almost two years.

Lincoln, however, received a reprieve. The school board set two triggers for the second closure: elementary enrollment below 1,050 students or dire financial conditions. The projected elementary student population topped out at 1,033 in February 2004 when the school board voted 4-1 to terminate Lincoln.

The school enrollment has dropped significantly since the early 1990s, according to a school district study. In 1992, there were 328 students at Lincoln. This year, 165 students completed the &

Remembering Lincoln&

painting and drawing project organized by artist-in-residence Lisa Shelton, whose fourth-grade daughter Ellia attends Lincoln.

Some would still like the school board to consider reopening Lincoln to reduce the strain on other elementary schools in the district and maintain neighborhood schools. The current school board has not entertained any of those ideas; a new board will take control July 1, though rethinking the Lincoln issue has not been identified as a goal by board member-elects.

Generations of memories

The school district bought the land on Beach Street in 1922 for $6,300 and, in 1926, the Lincoln School was built for $42,280. Southern Oregon State Normal School contributed $20,000 to the construction of Lincoln because the school would be used as a training ground for the college&

s education program.

Lincoln was staffed by students and graduates of the college, and was managed and controlled by the college. The school district still set the standards for the length of the school day, attendance and student conduct, and college and the school district shared the cost of teacher salaries.

In the 1960s, students would walk to the Southern Oregon College library, which was then housed in the basement of Central Hall, a couple times a month to hear stories told by the children&

s librarian and check out two books apiece.

Students still take walking field trips from the school &

to art galleries at the university, the high school and North Mountain Park &

but a lot Lincoln&

s special elements exist within the historic building.

&

You get attached to it,&

said Herbert Petschek, a retired business manager who has volunteered at the school since 1995. &

It&

s been a wonderful experience. ... I feel like I&

ve had an education in teaching over the last 10 years.&

On Thursday, parents asked where the quilts made by students would end up. Kids flipped through albums of class photos dating back to the early 1970s, although it&

s tough to say where the books will be housed after the school closes in two weeks. Some of the unique lessons taught at the school will only leave with the students, teachers and volunteers involved, such as the students who learned puppetry last spring or had 26 weeks of dance lessons in 2003.

&

I think the family&

s handling it pretty well,&

said Ashland resident Shirley Patton, whose children, including Kent, and grandchildren have attended Lincoln. &

It&

s a new adventure for them.&

The majority of Lincoln students will attend Walker School in the fall; the school&

s teachers will transfer to positions elsewhere in the district. The fate of the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historical Places, is unknown.

&

I am thankful for my years at Lincoln,&

wrote Pamela Juback, a 1967 graduate, in a three-page good-bye letter she sent to the school her current home in Eagle River, Ark. &

Closing the school closes a chapter in my life &

my childhood.&

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x 3019 or jsquires@dailytidings.com.

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