An especially bittersweet end to the year

The last students and staff members to attend and work at Grafton Elementary find special ways to celebrate before school is razed this summer

GRAFTON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL will be torn down this summer to make room for a new parking lot for the high school and district offices next to the grade school, which is part of the School District’s $39.9 million school facilities project. Principal Karen Noel stood with a few of the students who painted their hands and names on the school mural, including (from left) Rebecca Duong, Liam Scott, Hinal Kumbhani and Abby Barth. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Grafton Elementary students had their swan song during the last dance in the school’s gym on Friday, May 4, before the building is be torn down this summer. 

“Every end of the year is bittersweet, but this one in particular has had more special meaning for all of us in our school’s family,” said Principal Karen Noel.  

Grafton Elementary will become a parking lot for the high school and new district offices adjacent to the building. 

The project is part of the district’s $39.9 million school facilities improvement plan, which calls for the expansion of Woodview and Kennedy grade schools and the razing of Grafton Elementary because the foundation is sinking.

Also budgeted in the facilities plan are renovations and additions to Grafton High School. 

According to Noel, the students are celebrating their final days at Grafton Elementary by keeping up with past traditions that include a final victory lap around the school and a “lip dub,” which involves all of the students and teachers learning a dance routine to be performed on the last day of class on May 25.

“We continue to do business as usual, but we found some unique ways to celebrate the last school year at GES,” Noel said, noting all of the students this year painted their handprints along with their names on a school’s mural next to the office to memorialize their legacy as the last students at the school.

Next year, incoming fifth-graders and younger students will be reassigned to the other two grade schools, which was a concern for many parents after the School Board realigned the district’s attendance boundaries. 

“There’s a little bit of curiosity and wonder about it because some of the kids worry about change more than the others, but you encourage them to know the changes are going to be positive,” Noel said.

Another difficult lesson the students learned this year came when fourth-grade teacher Jill Rulland died from injuries sustained in a motor-vehicle crash in November. 

“Given what the last year has been like and the circumstances of losing a teacher, it teaches us that relationships are so important and mean so much to our family at school,” Noel said. “We lived that this year at GES.” 

Noel won’t be working for the district next year, but she said she has a promising opportunity and considers her time as principal at Grafton Elementary to be a privilege.

Before the building is torn down, there will be a final community farewell party for former students and community members on June 4.

Noel also said some of the school’s materials, such as the gym floor and bleachers, will be salvaged and used at other schools.

In the meantime, Noel said, the school community is making the most of its last couple weeks at Grafton Elementary and celebrating their time learning together. 

“We will all go to different places, but I think we all will have special memories of what GES has meant to us,” she said.




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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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