Eugene says ‘goodbye’ to 73-year-old Camas Ridge Elementary School building

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Since graduating from sixth grade in the spring of 1955, Linda McLarrin and Julie Jones had not set foot in the elementary school of their childhood.

But on Thursday night, McLarrin, Jones and hundreds of other community members came to Camas Ridge Elementary School to say their final goodbyes before the school was torn down for a full renovation.

The elementary building opened in 1949. After 73 years it will be rebuilt. Construction will begin this fall. Students enrolled at Camas Ridge Elementary will be temporarily relocated to the Willard School site for the next two years while construction is underway. They will return to a revamped Camas Ridge in 2024, one of three schools being rebuilt through a $319.3 million bond passed in 2018. Edison Elementary and North Eugene High are both currently under construction. They will open in fall 2022 and 2023 respectively.

The farewell ceremony was an opportunity for past and present students, community members and families to make peace with the school. Hallways and walls were brightly colored with chalk and paint. Groups of people took photos in places on campus that were important to them.

The crowd also included a wide range of ages, from young students currently enrolled in kindergarten to those who graduated decades ago.

Read more:What is done, underway and evolving with the Eugene 4J bond projects?

McLarrin remembers being at school the very first day the school opened in 1949.

Linda McLarrin, left, who attended freshman year Harris Elementary, the original name of Camas Ridge, opened and her classmate Julie Jones, walked around the building as they walked in their youth at a farewell celebration on Thursday, June 16, 2022.

McLarrin said she had chickenpox at the time, but didn’t want to miss her first day. She remembers her mother contacting the school nurse to let her know she had scabs and they let her in. She denied spreading chickenpox to her classmates.

McLarrin started first grade at Harris Elementary, the former name of Camas Ridge Elementary, in 1949. Jones started second grade in 1950. The two have been close friends ever since.

“I will be sad to see a landmark disappear,” Jones said. “It makes me feel like an old timer… (But) I like things sleek and modern. I like convenience. I like things smelling new, shiny.”

remembering a good friend

A mix of emotions was a common trend for attendees at Thursday’s farewell celebration. Many laughed at the old directories that were on display, dating back to the 1960s. Others wept with the flood of memories.

A group of students shared a bittersweet reunion.

In April 2018, Camas Ridge unexpectedly lost one of its students, fourth-grade student Mouhammadou Faye. His classmates, now in eighth grade, gathered at the school on Thursday to share memories and take photos.

“It was just really bittersweet, I guess, to see each other and say goodbye to this place where we’ve all become really good friends and bonded for life,” said fellow Gus Nelson. Faye class.

Now eighth graders, former Camas Ridge students gather for a photo outside the school with a portrait of classmate Mouhammadou Faye who died on April 22, 2018. The school held a farewell party on Thursday evening.  The building will be demolished later this year to make way for a new school.

Nelson said when Faye died, it brought her class closer together. They were all friends with Faye and bonded over the grief her death brought.

A strengthened community

Camas Ridge Elementary’s culture is community-based, according to Principal Mike Riplinger. He said it had been that way since 2009 when the school was renamed, but even before that.

“What it’s really about here is that you’re trying to blend students, staff, and families into one community, really trying to do that outreach. To make families feel, wow, that makes part of their house, when they send the children, it’s not like you’re saying go to school, but just go see another part of your family.

Even newcomers to the school, like Lindsay Selser, president of the parent-teacher organization, feel this community connection.

“I certainly feel a great deal of gratitude for the service this building has given our community over the years,” Selser said. “It’s just a special place. This school has an incredible heart and community, and it didn’t happen overnight. It’s because it’s been here for years and years and years. The building holds incredible memories for people.”

Portraits of students from when Camas Ridge was named Harris Elementary on display during the farewell celebration Thursday.

Riplinger said they will take that community mentality to the Willard School site, which will be the temporary home for staff and students until 2024. Once the school reopens in 2024, some aspects of the old school will also be incorporated, including murals and tiles. students did to commemorate his senior year.

“One of the things we talked about this year is how to keep the legacy going, even just going to the swing site that will span two years,” Riplinger said. “This is the toughest year that just about everyone in Oregon has been through in education (due to the pandemic)… We’re going to keep a positive spirit about the school closing. , so there are a lot of plates.”

Miranda Cyr reports on education for The Register-Guard. You can contact her at [email protected] or find her on Twitter @mirandabcyr.

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