Saying final farewells to Champion schools
May 25, 2018
Reporter: Bob Coupland
CHAMPION — Retired Champion Central Elementary School teacher Nancy Countryman said she will always remember the many projects and events the students took part in each year — such as the 100th day of school and Vehicle Day in the spring — during her 41 years of teaching second- and third-graders.
“We had an Easter bonnet parade where the children walked through the different classrooms. The students loved this. It was so much fun, “ Countryman told more than 200 people who gathered Thursday for a final farewell for both Central Elementary and Champion Middle School.
“This is a bittersweet event because it is the end of more than 100 years for Champion, but it is also sweet because there are so many new opportunities on the horizon for students and staff with the opening of the new building,” said Countryman, who retired in 2011.
The 103-year-old elementary school and the 53-year-old middle school are closing this month and are set to be demolished in the fall as students are moving into a new PK-8 complex off state Route 45, south of the high school. The middle school was constructed in 1965 at a cost of $785,000.
Students from both schools put various items in a time capsule, including an “ABC Book of Champion”from the kindergarten class, which will graduate in 2030. Also included was a backpack with headphones, scented markers and crayons. Staff put in books titled, “Cellphones in the Classroom” and “Communicating Through Handwriting.”
Students, teachers, board members and community members shared their memories of the two schools. Retired art teacher Thomas Neighbarger said for six years, he would drive each day from the middle school to the elementary to teach art to third-graders one period a day.
“I loved it. Later I had the third-graders again when they came to the middle school,” he said.
Retired first-grade teacher Charlotte Jessep said she was referred to as “the mother hen” who took care of her students during her 28 years at Central.
“It was always a privilege to be their teacher. There will be sadness when I pass by this place and the school is gone. If I had to do it all over again, I would teach here,” Jessep said.
Babette Sisler, president of the Champion Historical Society, said four generations of her family attended the school.
“We are saying farewell to part of our past but more importantly we are here commemorate our own personal history that took place at the school. We are not losing history, we are fulfilling it,” she said.
John Mahan, a 28-year board member who has had three generations of his family attend the school, said he remembers when the elementary had no cafeteria and everyone packed their lunches.