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Farewell, Garfield Elementary PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 13 January 2018 08:38

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Former school to be razed



ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times



Having been part of the Liberal community and USD 480 for so many years, Garfield Elementary School holds lasting memories for many people in the community. 

However, due to the completion of the bond project, Garfield Elementary School was one of the many buildings vacated and Monday evening during the most recent meeting of the USD 480 school board, the board voted 6-0 (with board member Cliff Abbott absent) to award the bid to G&G Dozer Company to demolish the building in the amount of $177,000. The official announcement of the building’s demolition was somewhat bittersweet, according to some former staff members. 

“My initial response was a bit of sadness because there are so many good memories there, memories with the students, memories from when my mom worked there, so many traditions and memories and great times with everyone in there,” Prairie View Elementary School Principal Kendra Haskell (who served as Garfield’s principal for four years) said. “So there’s some sadness there about those memories no longer having a standing building. But I do understand the decision, it was probably the right decision for the district to go with.”

“It was sad of course because that was my home for six years and there’s a lot of memories with the people I worked with,” Meadowlark Elementary School Instructional Coach Lyn Day (who worked as a paraprofessional at Garfield for six years) said. “Realistically though, it was a really old building and had issues – I remember there was one time we’d gotten like six inches of rain and no one could get to the building because it was flooded so badly. So there were some issues with it but it’s also sad because that was a building that has a lot of memories and other staff members I have a special place in my heart for.”

“It’s sad because it’s a piece of history for Liberal, that building’s one of, if not the, oldest school here in town,” Liberal High School ESL teacher LeAnn Hebbert said. “We had teachers there who went there as students and then became teachers there. It had the original part and then eventually it got built on to with an addition. It’s sad because it’s been part of my life for quite a few years and then for it to not be there anymore, it’s sad. It’s been there a long time so it’s a bit sad for something that’s been a part of Liberal for so long to not be there anymore. It’s also a bit odd because it’s in a residential area and surrounded by houses, which is way different than the other schools – I remember when I first got my job, I wasn’t familiar with Liberal since I didn’t grow up here and I got lost all the time going there because it wasn’t on Kansas Avenue, it wasn’t on Western Avenue, it wasn’t on a popular street.”

The school was also the site of the popular annual Mexican Dinner, which featured traditional homemade Mexican food as well as performances from Mexican dancers, and was also the site of another big project in the early 2000s – the building of the school’s current playground. 

“Probably my biggest memory would be when we came together with the community and Kaboom! to build the playground there at Garfield – we raised money and then partnered with that company and they matched it and came with people and we all came together to build the playground that’s there now,” Hebbert recalled. “That project came about when Dr. Bevan was still principal and I believe it was before 2000, so it’s been a while. It came about simply because we didn’t have any playground equipment for them to play on – we had a big dirt area where they kicked around a ball and we had, when I first got there, some seesaws and a merry-go-round that were all extremely unsafe. So we had those all taken out and then started working to put the idea together for that. One of our counselors at the time got those wheels turning.”

All three also talked about how close the staff was during their respective tenures at Garfield.

“I remember how close of a staff we were since we were a smaller staff at that time,” Day said. “At that time, we were doing the Accelerated Reader program, which was a big thing. Every nine weeks we had a challenge for the students and if they reached their goal they got to participate in a special challenge. We worked a lot with that part of the program and made sure it was fun for the students.”

“One thing I really liked about Garfield is it was one hall – I could stand outside my office and see everything going on in the building except for the portables,” Haskell said. “It made it cozy knowing I could walk down the hall and see all the students, which is something I can’t do in this building since it’s so big. That was a great way to start the day, seeing everyone in the hall and seeing everyone come in. And another tradition that I came into when I became principal was Read Across America Day, where every school did a Dr. Seuss Day and sponsored a different Dr. Seuss activity. Every room did the whole day, we had the newspaper come, we had city leaders come and a lot of people coming in to participate in that day.”

“We were really fortunate to have parent support. I think a lot of times people think Garfield didn’t, but we had such huge support and that really showed up with our Mexican Dinner we had every year and it was always something everyone looked forward to,” Hebbert said. “Just how our parents were so proud of the school and how they were as involved as they could be with everything. That dinner was something that was always a big deal and it grew and then we started having carnivals and that sort of thing and as time went on, we grew as a family and we tackled a lot of other big events there at Garfield.”

With the bond project now completed, Haskell and Hebbert also talked about their thoughts about the district’s moving forward. 

“I think the district’s definitely heading in the right direction, it’s exciting to be in the new buildings. They’re beautiful, they’re updated, everything’s new and bright for the students, it’s set up for all the technology we need, which wasn’t fully available with the Garfield building,” Haskell said. “We can do so much more with what we have now, so I’m very grateful to the city of Liberal and the taxpayers for voting on the bond because it is a great learning environment for our students of today.”

“The biggest changes that come to mind are the principal changes that happened throughout the years. During the time I was there, I’d say there were five or six different principals, and that’s a lot of principals to come in and out of a building in that time, and we were always fortunate to have amazing principals and administrators to work with,” Hebbert added. “When the schools went from K-5 to K-3, that was a huge change because half of that faculty wasn’t there anymore and that was the year I actually went to Cottonwood. That change going back to the K-5 buildings was a really good change, I feel that’s a better grouping of students, so I really like what they did with that. I like that the community voted to pass the bond issue and get us the schools we need and will help us in the long run. With the redesign coming up, there’s a lot of new ideas and I think our district is good with keeping up with all of that like with the technology and what’s best for the students and teachers.”

All three agreed their respective times at Garfield brought some great traditions and great memories. 

“I really enjoyed my time there, I have a special spot for that school and all the teachers and students from there,” Haskell said. “There’s a lot of fond memories there, we had school board members visit and other district administration. I love Prairie View and I love the direction USD 480 is taking and Garfield will always be special to me.”

“After my youngest was in school and I went back to work, I realized teaching was something I wanted to do,” Day said. “So the experiences there with the students and teachers and the support I got while I was finishing my degree, it was all great. It was a great experience for me with all the students and staff I worked with, and I wouldn’t change a bit of it.”

“I enjoyed my time at Garfield very much, it was hard to leave,” Hebbert said. “You always know when it’s time to try something new, and I felt it was about that time for me especially since that school, and many others, were going to close, so it was time for me to make a change and move on and come to the high school. It was hard to leave and now knowing it’s something I won’t be able to go back and visit, that’s going to be difficult.”

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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