As we walk through our neighbourhoods, our abandoned school buildings continue to speak to us directly, awaiting their final days in dark, secluded silence. Old friends like Allion Elementary School and Crawford Park Elementary, continue to remind us of the importance these buildings once played in defining who we are today.
Their halls are now empty of the laughter, friendships and school spirit that only children could bring.
Yet if you really listened you could almost hear the echoes of young voices within their walls and in their yards, as we were once those children. Whether we care to acknowledge it or not, these buildings once played a major role in our lives and were once the pride of our communities.
Yet these beloved places, where we all grew up, are now like Egyptian tombs awaiting the sands to seal their fate. You can almost hear the squeak of your sneakers on once polished gym floors that are now discoloring and deteriorating as these words are being typed. Our gyms, which once held our Halloween dances, spring carnivals, and Christmas choirs, now hold empty echoes of the glory they once held. The school bells, which dictated our every-day lives, now lie silent and rusted. The windows, once filled with our art, are now dirty and faded, with only fragments of creations left behind by the last “homeroom”. Our classrooms only hold their chalkboards and our scattered kid-sized desks. The schoolyards have suffered the most, with their once freshly painted “Champ” squares now overrun by naturally formed cracks from sprouting weeds. The principal’s office, the short washroom stalls, the tiny lockers, the waist-high coat hooks, remain unchanged within the dark hallways, now filled by the ghosts of our childhoods past.
Looking at old photos and videos of when these schools were still “alive” with happy children, hold no clues predicting their ugly fates. We still look upon them with great fondness. Remembering the snowy mornings when the school gave us shelter, the exciting school events, which gave us pride, and the brilliant teachers, which gave us our future.
It was people that brought our schools to life, then and now. Yet, we discarded these beautiful places for reasons of cost and age. Our old schools were places which shaped our young lives and which made us the responsible people we are today. Shouldn’t they be treated with as much respect as any of our fondest childhood memories? They gave us so much, and in return we abandoned them, simply in the name of cost-efficiency. Today, they sit quietly, waiting to become “structural risks”, so that we may self-rationalize their final destruction.
Our abandoned schools mean so much more to us than just their brick and mortar. They were once the centers of our communities and of our towns. We need to protect these places by giving them a new purpose in life before their “spirits” disappear completely.
So when you are passing by one of these now dark great schools, quietly nod and say “Thank-you”, for they have done their job with us, and it is now our turn to help them in their own “golden years”.
In a way, showing them the same respect that they had taught us.
Here’s hoping we have rekindled your own school “Spirit”, from the South-West Corner.