After 100 years, empty hallways

After 100 years, empty hallways
OROFINO - It's been a rough year for education in Idaho. And the economy and budget cuts helped sway a decision to close a local landmark - Orofino Junior High School.

That hits home on a personal level.

8 years ago, nearly to the day, I was inside this building waiting for the final bell to ring, which signified the end of my career as a Viking. Friday that bell rang for a last time.

Orofino Junior High School is closing.

The school was built in 1910. To honor the centennial, at 11:00 when school got out, the bell rang 100 times.

The decision to close the school was the result of staff meetings about budget cuts, overhead and much needed repairs for the building. In theory, there will be minimal job losses because many teachers are retiring.

Glena Sherman, a 30 year teaching veteran, is one of those deciding to leave.

"I made a statement one time that when the building was going, I was going," said Sherman. "The building's going, so I'm going. I've spent over half my life in this building. It's really hard to leave or even think about going somewhere else. So I just thought it was probably time for me to retire."

Turnover is low at the school. With most teachers having been there for over 30 years.

Chad Easterbrook, a former student, has taught there for 32 years. He'll now be at the high school and said he'll miss the camaraderie of his colleagues.

"We've been just like family," said Easterbrook. "We look after each other, boost each other up when we're down, we play little pranks on each other. It's just good, fun times."

The high school will be absorbing the entire Junior High student body next year, with eighth graders becoming freshman, and incoming eighth graders moving to the high school. Seventh graders will stay at the elementary school.

Orofino High School principal, Jerry Nelsen, said he's saddened to see the building go, but knows it's for the best.

"It's been a landmark, I actually went to junior high here,' said Nelson. "I've taught in this building, I've been an administrator in this building. It has a lot of neat memories of mine too. It's a great staff, it's going to be missed, the building will, the facility will. It has a lot of history. But you know, it's time. It's a building that's in good shape for parts of it, and parts of it aren't in such good shape. So it's time to make the move."

During my years as a Viking the ceiling of the new gym collapsed. So while it may have been a long time coming, leaving these halls empty is certainly bittersweet.

"It's hard saying goodbye," said Sherman. "You look at things and it's the last time for everything. You look in the gym, it's the last time. You look in your class, it's the last time."