State's oldest school to close to teaching

May 26, 2010 6:21:01 PM PDT
Central School opened its doors in 1888 and is believed to be the oldest continuously-operating school building in Illinois. The building in far northwest suburban Harvard will close its doors to students on Friday.

When Central School opened, George Eastman had just received a patent for his Kodak camera, Grover Cleveland was President, and the Washington Monument was welcoming its first visitors.

Central School was a high school, a grade school and an educational home to thousands of students in the past 122 years. With big classrooms, high ceilings, and lockers that pivot to become chalkboards, well, they don't make them like they used to.

Those who climb the steep steps, reach the attic, which, in its day, was the school gym. The ropes and rings are still there, and so, too, are the names of students who climbed the beams and left their John Hancock size names for later generations.

"It's just so nostalgic. How many others buildings have that?" said Dr. Lauri Tobias, District 50 superintendent.

"The building has evolved. As the community has changed, so has the school," said Kathleen Robson, Central School teacher.

Robson has taught at Central School since 1981. She also went to school there., as did her grandmother, who graduated from Central when it was a high school. There may be a bit of nostalgia, but Robson is ready for the move- and something new.

"Air conditioning --- a smart board, tile in the bathrooms," said Robson.

Friday will be the last day of classes at Central School. Everybody's moving to the new school, which has air conditioning. They hope to keep Central as the district administration building, but after 122 years, there will be no more children's faces in the classroom. And that's not an easy good-bye.

"We're very close. We're not gonna see each other every day," said Debbie Holland, Central School principal, who said she'll miss the school.

A poem written in tribute to Central captures the closure: Our ancestors had a voice in education, good, better, best. Always your good is better - until your better is best. Central School.


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