(Host) June is the month when an often joyful ritual is repeated across Vermont: the last day of school.
In Granby, this year’s final day was bittersweet, as the Northeast Kingdom town prepared to close its one-room school for good. That leaves just two one-room schools in Vermont.
As VPR’s Lynne McCrea reports, enrollment at Granby’s school was too low to stay open. So now the students all six of them are saying their last goodbyes.
(McCrea) Granby Central School is much what you’d expect in a rural Vermont, one-room school. The 1885 building has white clapboards and huge windows that fill the room with warm light on this early summer day.
(McCrea) The outdoors is an integral part of the school. There’s a small playground with the traditional swings and teeter-totter. And just beyond is the brook a favorite place for kids like Dakota Spicer.
(Dakota Spicer) “Lot of me and my friends come down here, and we mess around – like, we play gun games, we play sword games like we can climb up the banks…we can jump the river we always do that.”
(McCrea) Dakota is a 3rd grader at the Granby school. He says the brook is what he’ll miss most.
(Spicer) “And we have a lot of laughter down here, and I always want to remember it. And it’s kind of cool. And it’s just disappointing that they’re shutting down the school.”
(McCrea) Debra Sanborn is the part-time lead teacher in Granby. She’s says the community’s decision to close the school was a difficult one
(Sanborn) “They wanted to do what was best educationally for the children. And they said it wasn’t a financial consideration. And it was really not that much more expensive to keep the children here. But there were only three students. There are six this year and three are graduating. And the parents of those three students felt that it would be better for their children to have more social opportunity.”
(McCrea) As a 6th grader, Drew Duffy is one of the oldest in the school. He’s looking forward to going to school in Lancaster, where there’ll be more kids his age.
(Duffy) “I visited the school two times already and I think the school is pretty cool because- I play baseball- and there’s a bunch of my friends in baseball there and stuff.”
(McCrea) On this last day of school, kids are filling flower pots to give as gifts and the bookmobile arrives for a last visit.
Full-time teacher Jennifer Lassen reflects on the unique experience of a small school:
(Lassen) “They’re lucky kids to have such one-on-one help and have such a low student teacher ratio. They might not be so grateful for it now, but I think once they get to bigger schools they’ll really be aware of what a special situation they had going on here.”
(McCrea) People in the community drop by, and share memories of when they were students at the school:
(Lee Bishop) “I think it’s nice because you know your teachers and teachers know you “
(McCrea) Lee Bishop says little has changed since he was here in the 1940’s, and he’s sorry to see the one-room school close.
(Bishop) “I think it’s a sad day. Because there aren’t many left in Vermont or in the whole United States I guess, really”.
(McCrea) Barbara Brown counts five generations of her family who’ve been at the school, including two grandchildren this year.
(Brown) “That’s about all we had going for us, really. It’s like all these other towns that don’t have schools. Schools hold em together. Kids hold em together. And then it’s gonna be gone.”
(McCrea) As the afternoon winds down, the teachers and six students gather in a circle for a final time of sharing. Debra Sanborn reads a David Budbill poem called North , because she says it reminds her of Granby.
(Sanborn) ” larch, spruce, hemlock, cedar, pine and fir pointing toward the sky.”
(McCrea) Then, students are handed their report cards in small manila envelopes, and it’s the end of the school’s 121 year history.
(Boy) “I’m a fourth grader! Yeah!”
(McCrea) The town hopes to use the room for library space in the future. Most of the kids head out quickly, seeming happy for the start of summer. But Dakota Spicer and Drew Duffey hang back. The boys will each be going to a different school in September. For now, they drift back to their favorite spot the brook for a last chance to play.
(Sounds of the brook)
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Lynne McCrea