Faculty, staff, parents and children lined the hallways as Ridge Elementary held its open house and closing ceremony Sunday.
|Heidi Bevins-Obergon and her son Jackson Bevins, 11, look at a collection of old photos during the Ridge Elementary open house Sunday. (Photos: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
More than 150 people, many former students and teachers, packed into the gymnasium to watch a six-minute video of life at the Bowling Green school since it first opened in 1931, and to be entertained by Ridge alumni Jason and Alex DePue.
The school is set to close May 31 as a cost-savings measure for the district.
Photos from each decade of the school lined the halls, along with newspaper clippings.
Dale Arnold, who lives just west of the school, said he hopes the district finds a buyer for the building.
He called the school a “landmark” in the city, and recalled shooting baskets in the playground with his son.
The playground itself “is great for neighborhood kids.”
Superintendent Ann McVey has said that the district will offer to sell the building to a charter school or government entity. If that fails, it will go on the auction block.
She said by the end of June a decision should be made.
“That’s the sign of the times,” said Lynn Baldwin, who served a principal of the school in 1994-95. “This is a sweet building” and she said she had a lot of wonderful memories from working there.
Jill Bortel, who spent 25 years of her teaching career at Ridge starting in 1975, agreed.
“It’s so sad,” she said about the planned closure. “Our lives were in this building. It was home away from home.”
The memories made in the building “will be a part of history. Whether the physical building in here or not.”
Principal Joe Morgan addressed the standing-room-only crowd in the gym, stating that the school is a “living legacy that began 82 years ago.”
“The people wanted the best education for the students” and spent $76,700 to construct the art-deco style school, he said.
Today’s parents have something in common of those eight decades ago.
“We share a common bond in the spirit of education,” he stated.
Morgan praised the school’s PTO for buying every student a T-shirt, Dana Nemeth formerly at BGSU’s Center for Archival Collections for all the historical data, and artist Becky Laabs for sketching a pen and ink drawing of the school.
McVey had faculty and staff stand in the audience, then students, and finally parents, who made up the largest percentage of the crowd.
“You are why Ridge is what it is today,” she praised parents.
She quoted both Abraham Lincoln and Dr Seuss: “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time,” she attributed to Lincoln.
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened,” she said, quoting Seuss.
|Dale and Donna Schmidt look at albums of old photos during the Ridge Elementary open house Sunday afternoon.
McVey pointed out Ty Gibson in the audience, the fifth generation of his family to attend Ridge, and had him and his father Brad stand. Ty is now in eighth grade at the middle school.
Alex and Jason DePue then took the stage for four songs, Alex on guitar and fiddle and Jason on fiddle.
McVey said the brothers serve as an example that hard work pays off and that dreams do come true.
Alex flew in from San Diego for the performance, and Jason drove in from Philadelphia.
Jason said “it’s a humbling privilege to be here.”
Alex pointed out all his past teachers in the audience, earning laughter when he said he recalled Sondra Bates’ “evil eye,” and “I remember your paddle pretty well,” he said to Bortel.
They capped their performance by inviting their father, Wallace, up on stage to sing “Edelweiss.”
When the senior DePue got to the podium, he said when his son called him, he was told “We want you to sing ... and not suck.”
“I think I remember ‘Edelweiss’ but I don’t remember suck,” he said to the delight of the audience.
After their performance, the brothers commented on the school’s planned closure.
“I’m heartbroken,” said Alex, who attended Ridge from 1981 to 1988.
“This school is part of our lives growing up,” added Jason, who said he attended the school from 1977 to 1984.
“It’s an honor to be here,” Alex added. “Bowling Green City School District has been wonderful to the DePues.”
He pointed out this was his dad’s first public performance in 10 years.
Steve Cernkovich, a member of the district’s board of education, said he was not surprised about the event’s turnout.
“This really truly was a community school,” he said.
“It feels sad that it’s closing,” said second-grader Eli Pearce. He’s particular worried that he might not be in class next year with his best friends.
Classmate Andrew White agreed, saying he too would miss his friends.
Parents have not yet been told which of the remaining three elementary buildings in the district their children will attend next year.
There are only 121 youngsters enrolled at Ridge this year, enough for one classroom for each grade.
Mary Partlow, who had a daughter, three grandchildren and even her mother-in-law attend Ridge, was very definite in her opinion of the planned closing.
“I hate it,” she stated. “I love this school.”
April Partlow, Ridge PTO president, also is saddened the see the building close.
“The last of our very small family-type schools is closing,” she said.
Laabs, a long-time art teacher in Bowling Green and now owner of Art-A-Site gallery downtown, will have her limited edition pen and ink drawing of the school available at her store until sold out. One hundred were printed.
It took nearly 10 minutes to get the video working. To entertain the crowd, Alex DePue went back on stage for a round of “Name That Tune,” playing on his fiddle to the bands Ah Ha, Survivor and Huey Lewis and the News.
To a shout out from the audience, he quipped he didn’t know “Freebird.”
The event concluded with these final words on the video: “So here as we gather to honor Ridge upon its closing, we think back upon the words written, stories savored, meals munched, races run, obstacles overcome, problems solved, and lessons learned. If only these walls could talk, they would have so many stories to tell — stories we cannot begin to imagine. Soon our building will be silent, but children’s laughter will still echo through these halls. Here’s to Ridge — its families, its teachers, its students. A legacy of excellence at our Ridge School.”