By TESA GLASS
MT. VERNON — — By the end of this week, what was once a place of learning and laughter will be gone.
Demolition of Horace Mann School will be completed this week, but pieces of its life and the memories which came from its halls will live on.
"The stone from over the doors will be going to the Jefferson County Historical Society," said Nathan McKenna, city projects manager. "City crews will be picking it up from the demolition site and delivering it there. ... Plans are to place it by the parking lot eventually, but for now it will be on the ground until they get a base for it."
Carol Saladin, a former teacher at the school, and one of her fellow former staff members, Sharon Nichols, held a remembrance ceremony for Horace Mann, with attendees ranging in age from 97 to 2-years-old.
"There were people there from across the street and some that came 200 miles to be a part of it," Saladin said. "The people that were there were people who absolutely loved that building."
But Saladin said more than the building, it was the people and the caring that went on inside the structure that will be remembered.
"I was a teacher at Lincoln School and was transferred to Horace Mann," Saladin recalled. "It was the bets move that ever happened to me. I was needed much more there. ... We were a family rather than co-workers and the students and staff were all happy."
Saladin defined Horace Mann as a true "neighborhood school."
"The parents were always involved and felt welcome at the school," Saladin said. "They came by all the time and were a part of the learning and activities. What went on there was such a good thing."
Saladin also recalled the final day of student attendance at the school prior to the consolidation of District 80 Schools and the subsequent deeding of the facility to the city.
"We always had an end of school parade," Saladin said. "That year, there was a hearse at the end of the parade. I'm sure Armando Settles had a hand in that, but it was appropriate. It almost felt like a funeral. It was like losing a family member."
A piece of the history of the building will also be available to residents who want a part of it. Souvenir bricks will be available on a first-come, first-served basis on Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the school site.
"There is a limit of one brick per person," McKenna said. "Anything that remains after one brick is given to those who want them, then people may come back for an additional brick. We have a limited number and want to make sure everyone gets one."
McKenna said there have been some reports of people going on the grounds of the demolition to take bricks in advance of the giveaway.
"Please wait until Friday," McKenna said. "It is a dangerous site. If someone can't make it during the giveaway, they can call me and I will reserve a brick for them."
McKenna reported another search of the site is on — for time capsules.
"We will be digging for time capsules this week," McKenna said. "We have been told by former students and staff there are some buried there. We are going to start looking and hope we find something."
The site should be cleared by the end of next week, McKenna said, and by the end of July, crews will have the area back to a green space. Additional plans for the property have not been determined at this time.