Pine Grove undergoes ‘sad’ transition, Mid Valley Elementary School works to welcome new students

June 18, 2011

Ice cream bars, a friendly greeting and some familiar faces may help ease what teacher Melissa Sady calls "the separation anxiety" Pine Grove students, staff and families are feeling.

Mid Valley Elementary staff and students welcomed all Pine Grove students, grades kindergarten through 4, to a field day and lunch Thursday. Pine Grove fifth-graders, headed to middle school next year, had the school to themselves for the morning.

Friday was the last day of school in the Hood River County School District, and the last day as a K-5 school for Pine Grove.

Most students at Pine Grove will move to Mid Valley next year, as Pine Grove is being repurposed for special needs, early intervention and other programs. For the first time in over a century, there will be no "regular" school in Pine Grove. Friday was the last day for everyone.

"Kinda happy and kinda sad," first grader Ava Krentz said when asked during Thursday's lunch about moving to Mid Valley. Asked about the happy part, she takes a bit of her fudgesicle and says, "because I'm going to meet new people."

Her best memory of Pine Grove? "It can always be happy at that school."

"Good," said first-grader Nayeli Gutierrez, "My cousins will be here and I can play with my friends."

Her best memory of Pine Grove is "they have nice teachers."

Three of those teachers and two reading specialists will move from Pine Grove to mid Valley: Sandy Abramson, Christy Ewald, Jackie Osborn, Lynne Hamada and Trisha Gehrig.

Together, on Thursday, the Mid Valley and Pine Grove students did their annual "step up" - meeting their 2011-12 teachers and seeing their new classrooms."

"I think we're all feeling a separation anxiety, but I know the kids feel so welcomed here," said Sady, who will teach next year at Westside after eight years at Pine Grove.

"I've been so blessed to be at Pine Grove. It's been a gift," Sady said.

Pine Grove Principal Kelly Beard, who moves to May Street next year, praised the staff at Pine Grove for taking on the extra work load that comes with not only closing up for the summer, but closing down.

"Every school goes through a packing up process, boxing things up and getting the building ready for maintenance over the summer, but at Pine Grove it's been a process not just of packing up for the summer, but for good," Beard said.

"The Pine Grove community is a proud community and one I've had the privilege of being a part of and working with for five years," he said.

"It's sad but I am once again impressed by that overwhelming sense of community spirit that is Pine Grove. This is an amazing group of people."

He said of the transition, "It's hard, but the community of Pine Grove has gone through change at this school before, a number of times over 100 years."

Beard said earlier in the year that, "What the children are concerned about is what is their new school going to be like. Do they have skate night? Do they have field trips? They're very curious about Mid Valley and a little nervous, and also very concerned about their teachers."

In the past four months, Beard and Mid Valley Principal Dennis McCauley have worked with parents and staff at both schools to answer those questions and quell those fears.

"Our role as educators is stepping up to the challenge of 'Are those children's needs being met now through the change process?'; and putting to rest any fears," Beard said.

Some of those efforts included joint art projects, field trips and activity days, visits by McCauley to Pine Grove, parent/staff planning teams, parent information handbooks, and a Mid Valley open house June 8. The transition plan for the current school year culminated in the combined field day and move-up on Thursday.

McCauley acknowledged that there are many changes at Mid Valley for Mid Valley students to get through, as well as the students coming from Pine Grove, and he and staff will be attentive to those adjustments over the summer and in the fall.

"We want the students to look at Mid Valley as their community, to feel not just that they are leaving Pine Grove but coming to Mid Valley," McCauley said.

"We look upon this as the Pine Grove-Mid Valley community," he said.

Beard said that he and McCauley did an inventory of all Pine Grove's books, materials, furniture and other items, some of which will go to Mid Valley, while others will go into storage.

Many educational materials from Pine Grove would duplicate those already at Mid Valley, but Beard said he and his staff felt strongly that "the books that were intended for Pine Grove students should follow them to Mid Valley."

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