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March 5, 2013

Information sought about poster

MT. VERNON — — The ghosts of happy children are still apparent inside the now empty halls at Horace Mann Grade School.

In a place where students once roamed the halls and teachers once worked to instill education into those children, it is eerily quiet — and has been quiet since it closed in 2001.  

One remnant of those happy school days is a banner recently noticed by city officials.

"We went through with District 80 and no one noticed it," said city Capital Projects Manager Nathan McKenna. "I think we all thought it was painted on the wall. But, when I started looking closer, I realized it is not a painting, it's a blue tarp that has been hung on the wall."

The school was deeded to the city in 2002 for $1, by Mt. Vernon City Schools District 80 after city-wide consolidation of schools happened. After the city gained the building, it was used for a short time for training of first responders, as a community building, and as a meeting place for the Heartland Young Marines. However, black mold and friable asbestos issues have forced the city to go out for bid to demolish the structure on Perkins Avenue.

"People have sentimental ties to this building, especially those that went to school here," McKenna said. "Someone saw this banner every day when they attended school. I just think it will be interesting to see if anyone out there remembers painting it, someone who would want it."

Marilyn Copenhaver and Sharon Nichols were the teachers whose classes created the banner.

"It would have been 1992-93," Copenhaver said. "I looked it up in my yearbook, based on the names that are on the poster. Other than that, I can't remember the banner."

Copenhaver, who taught fourth grade first at the Dr. Andy Hall School, went to Horace Mann when Andy Hall became a sixth grade center.

"It would have been made one of the first years I was there," Copenhaver said. "Initially, Sharon was teaching fourth grade the same time I was, then later she went to teach kindergarten. When Lincoln and Mann closed, I went to J.L. Buford and was there until I retired."

Copenhaver said although she doesn't remember the banner, she remembers many of the students she taught.

"It was 20 years ago," Copenhaver said. "Those kids are almost 30 years old now. I still see many of them when I am out and about. But, why did we make the poster? I can't tell you, I just don't remember."

Copenhaver said the banner would not have been something she saw on a daily basis while still at the school.

""The teachers, we came in the back door in the mornings, and the only time we were up front was in the afternoon, when we might have to go outside for people picking up kids in front," Copenhaver recalled.

The poster hangs across from the former school office, over the stairwell to the front outside entrances to the school proper, not the cafeteria area.

"I can't imagine it being thrown away, so I hope it goes to someone who will value it," Copenhaver said. "It's kind of nice to know it was still up there after all these years."

McKenna said he also wants to get the banner into the hands of someone who will appreciate it.

"I think it would be interesting to see if anyone out there remembers painting it, someone who would want it," McKenna said.

McKenna said anyone who is interested in finding out more, or sharing more of the story, may contact him at 242-6807.

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