AUSTIN, Texas - Teachers and staff at Pease Elementary School lined up on the sidewalk surrounding the building with signs and heavy hearts as they wish their students farewell from a distance. On the last day of school, families decorated their cars and blasted music while children waved happily. It was a bittersweet occasion as families and staff reunited after months of social distancing.
Pease Elementary School stood for 144 years and was the oldest continuously operating elementary school in Texas. Try as they might, parents and east side activists fought to keep their children’s schools alive. In November, Austin ISD school board voted to shutter its doors along with Brooke, Metz and Sims schools.
The news was heartbreaking for families, Anya Wiley and her son Jeremiah are Pease alums, her daughter Aniyah was attending the school before its closure.
“It makes me just a little bit emotional honestly because I know the greatness that came out of the school when I was a student and for my son as well and what my daughter was able to get out of it,” said Wiley. “We will deeply miss the school and we’ve enjoyed the memories that we’ve gotten from the school as well as the friends we’ve developed over the years.”
Parents came from all over Austin to take their children to Pease and by the next academic year, the students will be dispersed across the district.
Terry Woodroffe held a sign thanking teachers and staff. “It’s incredibly hard, on the way here my kid said why does it feel like we are going to a funeral?” said Woodroffe. “I think that’s really poignant since this should have never happened; they shouldn't have closed the school.”
Across the street, teachers cheered their students on by blowing bubbles and giving “air hugs”. Francis Jones, who worked at Pease for 21 years, said pandemic canceled multiple end of the year activities, field trips and parties the school was planning to host.
“Pease is a very diverse family full of love, very giving,” said Jones. “I’m just overwhelmed. These are my babies. I’ve seen kids come and go. It’s been a journey.”
Next to Jones stood Karen Haines who was an aftercare instructor at Pease for three years. She appeared to know almost every kid’s name. “We want everybody at Pease to know that the time that we spent here together it’s always going to be in our hearts,” said Haines. “We are always going to be Bobcats forever.”
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