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A bittersweet ending for Cherry Grade School

The last day, the last graduation, the lasting memories

Published: Friday, June 6, 2014 12:57 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, June 6, 2014 1:03 p.m. CST
Caption
(BCR photo/Donna Barker)
Cherry Grade School eighth-graders (from left) Madison Soldati, Jacob Manfredini and Courtney Kobold pose for one more picture in front of their school, which is closing its doors to students next fall. The final graduation ceremony was held Friday evening at the school. Cherry Grade School residents voted in March to deactivate the school facility and send their children to Dimmick Community Consolidated School District in LaSalle County. A combination of evaporating state aid, shrinking property values and declining enrollment led to the deactivation.

CHERRY —Jacob Manfredini, Madison Soldati and Courtney Kobold will go down in history as the final three graduates of Cherry Grade School.

On Friday evening, the three eighth-graders graduated from Cherry Grade School in a final ceremony at the eastern Bureau County school. Starting in the fall, Cherry students will go to Dimmick Grade School.

Jacob, Madison and Courtney talked about their years at Cherry, the distinction of being the final graduating class, and the foundation they believe Cherry Grade School has given them as they look forward to attending Hall High School next fall. Jacob and Courtney have been classmates since kindergarten with Madison joining them in first grade.

Being part of the final eighth-grade graduating class from Cherry Grade School is a cool thing, Jacob said. It’s something nice to remember, he added.

Madison agreed but acknowledged there is a bit of sadness that comes with knowing they are the last graduating class.

“I do feel kind of special, as the last graduating class, but I also feel kind of heartbroken,” Madison said.

Friday’s graduation ceremony is not just a big step for the three eighth-graders, but also for the school itself, Courtney said.

“In a way, it is like the Cherry Grade School is graduating too, since it won’t be back next fall either,” she said.

There have been some real advantages to being part of Cherry Grade School, and the school has given them a good foundation as they head into high school, the eighth-graders agreed.

“A big advantage is that with the smaller class sizes at Cherry, the teachers can work individually with the students and give them the help they need,” Jacob said.

Also, with combined grades in each classrooms, the older students get to review the lessons being taught the younger students, and the younger students get to pick up things being taught to the older classes, Courtney said.

There’s also a closeness that develops with not just the other students, but also with the teachers, inside and outside of the classroom, Madison said.

“It’s been like a family here at Cherry. There’s no drama. Everyone gets along here,” she said.

With a good academic foundation in place, the three agreed they are looking forward to attending Hall High School next year, making new friends, playing sports, and even getting to switch classrooms for their classes.

From a teacher’s perspective

Not only is there a sense of anticipation, with a little sadness, for the eighth-graders with Friday’s graduation, Cherry Grade School teacher Jennifer Ring said there’s a bittersweet feeling for the staff as well.

Ring has taught at Cherry Grade for 13 years, with 10 of those years in the first/second grade classroom and the last three years in kindergarten. Next year, Ring will teach first grade at Dimmick Grade School, which means she will have her Cherry kindergartners next year as well. It will be nice for them, and her, to have a familiar face when they start school next year, she said.

“It’s definitely bittersweet, the closing of Cherry Grade School. It’s such a close knit family here. It’s been nice to see the kids come in as kindergartners and see them go up all the way through eighth grade, which I know will happen at Dimmick too,” Ring said. “But I also know it’s time to move on. We just can’t provide the services that we need to do for the kids anymore. The opportunities at Dimmick will be unbelievable for them.”

Cherry Grade School has done a good job preparing its students for Dimmick and Hall, Ring said. The smaller classrooms and the one-on-one attention teachers were able to give the students has been great. Cherry Grade has consistently done very well on state tests. The school has had a great staff through the years, she said.

Looking ahead to the start of school next fall, Ring said the Dimmick School District, its staff and students have been very welcoming to Cherry, and she sees the move to Dimmick as a very positive thing for the Cherry students. She sees no problems academically or socially for the kids as they make their adjustments to a new school.

“But I think they will still have that little piece of Cherry in their hearts, as I will,” Ring said. “I know this is definitely a positive change for us, but it’s going to be a hard day on our last day of school. It will be hard on the community as well. We have so many great memories here.”

But Ring has a favorite quote that she likes to remember when she thinks of Cherry.

“It’s hard to say good-bye, but memories never die.”

From the superintendent’s view

“Cherry Grade School has a long and distinguished history of service to our children and their families, built on great traditions, high standards of excellence and community values,” Superintendent Jim Boyle said. “The people here are so supportive of their children, and they really value education, and they know that education is going be vehicle for their child to enhance success. The students have been so dedicated and so respectful.”

Looking at the pathway to this moment of change, Boyle said the Cherry Grade School Board of Education has been a very dedicated board who wanted to keep the school open as long as it could, which is what it successfully did. The board has had the best interest of the kids at heart. It was difficult for the board to say it was time to turn over the education of the Cherry children to another district, but the board knew another district could fulfill what the Cherry District could no longer financially support, Boyle said.

The Cherry staff also has to be commended for its commitment to providing top quality educational programs and for always maintaining the highest standards of excellence, Boyle said. In his five years at Cherry Grade School, the school has always met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). The Cherry staff have been some of the most highly qualified and highly educated people with whom he’s ever worked, the superintendent said.

Being part of the Cherry Grade School District has been a great experience, he added.

“I’m very proud of Cherry Grade School, of our history and service to our children and their families. I’ve been privileged to be an administrator here,” Boyle said.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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