I’ve mentioned for….several months that I have news to share but that I wasn’t ready to share it yet. I’m still not really ready but it’s more of a reality now, so I might as well put it out there. I’ve never really known how to say it, so I might as well just say it flat out.
At the end of October, our school received news that it was going to be closing at the end of the year due to low enrollment. If you know me personally, you’ve known about this since October. And you also know that I’ve struggled with the decision since then.
Initially, there was a lot of sadness, anger, frustration, and disappointment for everyone involved in the school. We have juniors who are now forced to find a new school for their senor year when their focus should be on starting to look at colleges and new freshman who just started their high school journey now being told they have to start all over again already. Alums and parents losing parts of their history. And teachers/staff losing their jobs.
It’s been heartbreaking.
Once the initial emotions calmed, a bit, we had to go into planning mode as a staff. We had to start planning where our students (and ourselves) were going to go this next school year. We spent the great part of the year making sure all of our students have a new home this coming August and still helping them understand and process this situation that was happening.
It’s been a grieving process for all involved. As a faculty and school we’ve all gone through our own versions of the process: shock, sadness, anger, bargaining, and finally acceptance. I’m not sure we’re all through the acceptance process; or more rather most of us have accepted it, but we still don’t like it.
Along its dealing with this situation, of course we have the normal school climate to deal with along with other non-normal situations, which made the year more difficult. Student outbursts increased, a few staff members left (which we don’t fault them for; when you have a family and opportunity presents itself, you need to take it for your family) and our school seemed to be under constant media scrutiny.
Needless to say, this has definitely been the most challenging year of my career. You can’t prepare for these years. You just have to try to make them the best you can for the students and try to survive them yourself. Then you spend the year preparing for the end of the year; when you’re at the first “lasts” and when everyone finally leaves for the last time.
Then the last day hits and you realize, your can’t really prepare for that.
Our last day with the students was Thursday. Our last day as a faculty was Friday.
We’d already had our fill of “lasts”: last prom, last school-wide mass (we’re a catholic school), last field day, last Walk for Hope, last….everything. And we thought through all of that, you’d think we would have all cried ourselves out. Not so much.
I was actually okay on Thursday. It was the last day of finals, most kids were done. It was around dismissal and I hadn’t cried or freaked out. Then one of my “frequent flyers” came in (and she was one who just liked hanging out with me) and says, “Ms. R, you’re just gonna let us leave without saying goodbye?”
I was trying to…..
But, of course, I went down to the cafeteria with her, where everyone was waiting for their parents to pick them up.
Suddenly I’m around everyone hugging goodbye and some are crying, and then I hear “Ms. R!!!!” through crying. And they’re hugging me and saying their goodbyes.
And….I….lost it. Completely.
Suddenly my girls that I’ve been with for three years were leaving and they weren’t coming back, and I lost it.
Then Friday we had a faculty send-off/get-together, which was more tears and hugs. Especially when our school president was giving her speech and she said that she felt like she failed us (which couldn’t be further from the truth); everyone was sobbing. We tried to make it as great of a party as we could, but again, when it came to the end and everyone leaving, it was hard.
After lunch I took one more look around my office of three years that was now completely bare. I even grabbed a couple of pictures:
Then, I turned in my keys and fully said good-bye to the building, which was also harder than I thought it would be.
We’re a pretty close-knit faculty and apparently one of the teachers is already planning a get-together for everyone in July. Hopefully, we will all figure out a good way to still see each other from time to time, even if it’s just for an occasional happy hour.
And for all of those wondering, I’m still not sure where I’m headed in August. I have a couple of possibilities, but I don’t have anything certain yet. I could know something as early as tomorrow or as late as the middle of August; it’s just how the education system works (and it’s even more uncertain when you’re a school counselor, unfortunately). At this point I’m more or less just (im)patiently waiting to hear back from a few places and hope that everything works out the way that it needs to.
Now, I get to start over again next year in a new place and with a new faculty; hopefully. I think I’ll always miss this school though. It became such a huge part of my life and it gave me so many amazing people that were not only co-workers, but also friends.
So, this is what I’ve been sitting with since October. Fun, huh?
But, just keep all of us in your thoughts/prayers as we all transition to new places and while some of us (like me) are still looking for places to transition to and hope that all of us find a good fit for next year.