Last bell at Schenley: Historic high school closes
By Bill Zlatos
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
“You may not see any depression today, but I think in September it’ll hit us,” said activities director Joe Ehman.
As the last bell sounded at 11:10 a.m. Tuesday, freshmen, sophomores and juniors hugged each other, snapped photos in the hallway and said good-bye. Seniors had their last day of class Friday. In tribute, they scattered 92 roses — one for each year of the school’s existence — on its front steps.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet,” said Tariq Stephens, 16, a sophomore from Beltzhoover. “But I know at the end of the day it’s going to be crazy, because it’ll be the last time I see the inside of this building.”
The 1,127 Schenley students still do not know whether the Oakland school will close. The city school board will vote June 25 on a recommendation by city schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt to shut it down.Roosevelt has said the district cannot afford the $76.2 million cost of fixing the building’s mechanical systems and removing its asbestos.
Whether it closes or is renovated, Schenley students who will be in grades 10-12 in the fall are being assigned to Reizenstein School in East Liberty.
There was little evidence yesterday to indicate that Schenley was closing for good. One sign on the floor said, “Schenley we’ll miss you.”
“For a school that’s closing, it’s very quiet,” said Assistant Principal Nina Sacco. “It’s very peaceful.”
Sacco owes her very life to Schenley. Her grandparents met as Schenley students in the school auditorium.
Although classes have ended for students, teachers will be in school through the end of the week.
Kelly McKrell, an English and drama teacher, mulled her feelings in a room full of props such as a giant jukebox and an oversized pharaoh’s head, relics of the school musicals she has directed.
“It’s going to be difficult for me on Friday,” said McKrell, a Schenley graduate. “That’s the last day I walk out of this building and never come back. I don’t know how I’m going to walk out.”
Ehman has the unenviable task of returning to alumni all the memorabilia they gave the school over the years. “It’s just a big mess,” he said.
A couple from Kansas, graduates from the 1950s, came by recently to retrieve the wife’s megaphone and cheerleading uniform.
Schenley Principal Sophia Facaros, patrolling the halls, reminded a student to remove his earphones. She was so intent on making sure that students behaved properly that she did not have time to feel much of anything.
“There isn’t one ounce of emotion in me right now, because the job is too big to allow anything else to come into it,” she said.
Luke Trout, 17, a junior from Morningside, decided he was not leaving the school without a souvenir. He removed a framed picture of a rocket from the cafeteria wall “just to have something to remember Schenley.”
“What are they going to do,” he asked, “suspend me?”
As the clock wound down, security guard Marsha Comer hugged students good-bye.
“I can’t cry,” she said. “I love them. They’ll be okay.”
When the final bell rang, some students whooped their approval.
Then they trudged down the steps past the wilted roses.
Bill Zlatos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7828.