Marianne Duffy was a second-grader at Tempe’s Holdeman Elementary School on the day it opened in 1961. It was the only school in the district with central air conditioning, and she remembers spending the first winter wearing her heavy coat to class every day because the system didn’t work quite right.
For the last 30 years she’s been a teacher at another of Tempe’s neighborhood elementary schools, Thew, which opened in 1958.
Both Thew and Holdeman closed their doors to students for the last time Thursday. Starting almost immediately, the schools will be demolished to make room for new sports fields and parking lots for two new buildings the district is constructing.
Throughout this school year, the new Thew and Holdeman schools have been under construction on the existing property of both facilities.
The new buildings are part of a bond issue Tempe passed in 2005, not to exceed $65 million, to pay for a total of five new buildings: Scales, Holdeman, Thew, Brogan Center and Broadmor. The bond proceeds will also pay for designs for a new Aguilar School.
Scales was the first project, completed in April.
The new Thew and Holdeman buildings are scheduled for completion by the first day of school this fall.
Thew celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this year, and Duffy said she was shocked at how many people came from all around the neighborhood to see the school again.
“People came who didn’t even have kids at the school. They came because they had been students. One man came who had his class picture from 1958,” she said.
Theirs is a multigenerational community with a history at the school, she said. She teaches children now whose parents and even grandparents attended there, so many people are saying goodbye to a part of their lives.
Rona Johnson, a fourth-grade teacher who started her career at Holdeman 10 years ago as a student-teacher, agreed that it is the familiarity and memories at the school that will be most missed, even though she is excited about teaching in the new building.
Johnson has been teaching in the same room for nine years and said one thing she will miss about Holdeman is the physical connection to the outside world.
“My door opens to the outside. When I’m teaching, I point out there. I think it gives children some perspective on the world,” she said.
In her new classroom, she will have windows but they will be higher in the room and her students won’t be able to easily look out them. And the classroom will not open to the outside, as is typical in Tempe’s older schools, most of which where built in the 1950s through 1970s.
“It’s things like that I’ll miss. This building is old, but it still has some character,” she said.
Johnson, who has three children attending Holdeman, said the reality that their school will soon be demolished has not yet set in.
“It’s hard for them to grasp. I think it will be more real once they see it,” she said. “All they know is that they have no playground right now. It’s been shrinking all year and is fenced off for the construction.”
Holdeman teacher Pat Wilson put her first child in the school in 1984. She remembers it still had green shag carpet that used to get a bit smelly from time to time.
She said she’ll miss Room 92, the school’s biggest room that once housed kindergarten. It has its own small stage and used to be reserved for the lead kindergarten teacher, before it was turned into a preschool.
“There’s just no place like Holdeman,” she said. “With its great big wooden floor-to-ceiling cabinets. The old trees that line the streets, the wood paneling throughout the inside. It’s those neat things that the new building won’t have.”
While the teachers all have good memories of their old schools, they all are looking forward to the new ones.
A self-described technology “geek,” Johnson said she’s looking forward to the technology — SmartBoards, ceiling-mounted projectors, document cameras and wireless Internet connections — that will be part of the new building.
Wilson agreed that the technology will enhance the teaching.
“I have mixed feelings, of course, but it will be wonderful to have the new space,” she said. “If it weren’t a little sad to be leaving, that would mean there wasn’t great stuff happening here.”