Students, parents, faculty recall memories of Ealy Elementary

By: Sherri Kolade | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 4, 2013

 The West Bloomfield Board of Education voted Sept. 24 to close Ealy Elementary School by the fall of 2013.

The West Bloomfield Board of Education voted Sept. 24 to close Ealy Elementary School by the fall of 2013.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — In kindergarten, West Bloomfield resident Julianna Boye showed her teacher at Ealy Elementary School a special talent during show-and-tell.

“I was showing my kindergarten teacher how fast I can blink my eyes,” the Ealy fifth-grader said.

That memory, among many others, is one that the 10-year-old said she wishes she could bottle and take with her on her new educational path.

“If I could bring (my teacher) to Orchard Lake Middle School, that would be awesome,” she told the Beacon during a recent interview.

Boye, her 7-year-old brother Julian, and a host of other Ealy students, faculty and community members plan to literally bottle up their feelings about the school with the Eagle pride in a time capsule during an Ealy tribute day event.

A final farewell is scheduled for 4-7 p.m. June 7 before Ealy’s June 30 closing date.

The annual Ealy Fair will be held with the tribute event on school grounds, 5475 W Maple Road, featuring food, ice cream, games, photo booths and more.

The tribute to Ealy will include a historical video, a balloon launch, a jazz band, and a time capsule presentation to the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society.

Third-grade teacher Marla Gartner said Ealy means a lot to her because of emotional and professional ties.

“My children went here. I did my student teaching here, and I maintained a career here for 20 years,” she said. “Ealy is like a family. A lot of the teachers have been here the same amount of time that I have. We all work together. We all support each other.”

One of Gartner’s students, Malcolm Draper, of West Bloomfield, said he did not like the fact that his school is closing.

“I am really bummed out because this is my first year here, and I haven’t been here for a long time,” Draper said in school recently. “I’m bummed out because I am going to a new school.”

By the fall, he will attend Sheiko Elementary School, and he said he has high hopes.

“I hope to learn much.”

The decision to close Ealy stemmed from a need to consolidate. The West Bloomfield School District Board of Education chose to close Ealy in the 2013-14 school year. The school board also voted to make Doherty Elementary a school for kindergarten through second grade and make Sheiko for third through fifth grade by the fall; an estimated 400 students will be moved in the process.

“Right now, we are in the phase where we have parent groups meeting with principals and planning transitional actives when students will tour their buildings,” Robert Martin, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, told the Beacon in April.

During a September Board of Education meeting, trustees voted 6-1 to close Ealy, a move that could save about $685,000 annually, including future maintenance costs; Trustee Carol Finkelstein cast the opposing vote, saying Ealy would have been better suited to stay open in favor of closing another school.

Ealy Principal Rod MacNeal told the Beacon that the transitional phase for the school includes the district’s media specialist sorting through books for use at Sheiko, Roosevelt Elementary School and Doherty. He also said that the district does not have a “definitive” plan for the elementary school building.

“It may be storage. I know we are going to keep some of the furniture here. It will be utilized for storage,” he said.

He said the reconfiguration is better for the district, long-term.

“By looking at the north end, and seeing the success we had with those schools that concentrate on certain grade levels, we wanted to replicate that on the south end,” he said. “We will have two schools instead of three schools, and by concentrating those students at those schools, we will not have to fill as many seats.”

Currently, there are two schools on the south end and three schools in the north; after Ealy’s closing, the district will have five elementary schools.

After this school year is complete, MacNeal plans to take an elementary principal position at a school in Massachusetts.

He said he is sorry to see the school close, but he has positive hopes for the district’s future.

“I am happy the district is making moves in order to strengthen its financial profile so we can meet the financial challenges we have been presented with.”

Boye’s mother, Mary Lewis-Boye, said her family moved to the district in 2006, and Boye and her brother Julian have never looked back.

“(Ealy) was just the best West Bloomfield could offer to me,” Lewis-Boye said recently. “My kids and I loved it. It’s a lot of history and we want to share that story.”

Dana Ishbia, who has lived in the school district for 17 years, agrees. She said her children, who are now in eighth and 11th grades, were “lucky” to attend Ealy.

“Very sad that it is closing,” she said. “It served as an incredible childhood education for both my kids, and we had really fond memories.”

Julian Boye said that although he is sad to see Ealy close, he is looking forward to working on more math and science projects at his new school at Sheiko, where he will be in third grade.

Lewis-Boye said that even though it is hard to move on, her children are steadily adjusting.

“It is the end of an era for them.”

Find out more about the West Bloomfield School District at www.wbsd.org or by calling (248) 865-6420.

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