10/10/2019 - 4:17 PM - Hannah Raab
The 2018-2019 school year proved to be the final chapter for the Ogema Elementary School. The closing of the Ogema School occurred following the referendum approved by residents of the Prentice School District to build an addition to the Prentice School. As a result, the elementary students and teachers are all together in Prentice for the 2019-2020 school year. This building project is a significant development for the school, but it brings many adjustments for both students and staff. With the excitement of the new addition to the school, comes a somber ending for Ogema.
This will be the first time in many years, that the entire Prentice School District is under one roof. The transition is a big event in the history of our school. The district spread out over three locations for many years - Prentice, Ogema, and Tripoli. Over time the school transitioned down to two separate locations, with the closing of Tripoli in 2006. Now, with the closing of Ogema in 2018, the multiple locations have completely combined into one.
Julie Pemper, the elementary Physical Education teacher, has had to travel between the Ogema and Prentice Schools to teach classes up until this year. When asked about having to juggle time between both locations, Pemper said, “I didn’t mind the drive, it was a nice, quiet time to use to regroup.” But now with the elementary students in one location, she no longer has to work the travel time into her lesson plans. The complete elementary school population being in one building will definitely help make classes be more uniform. The equipment will no longer be split between the two schools, but contained in a single building. This combination of equipment, could allow for the classes to have more possibilities and opportunities to do activities. Unfortunately, due to the construction still in progress on the school, the available gym space for her class has been temporarily unavailable and the Physical Education storage is not quite complete. Despite the setback, she looks forward to the possibilities, saying, “It will be awesome eventually because there were many things I couldn’t do in the Ogema School that can be done here in Prentice.”
Julie Lake, a second grade teacher in the district, has bittersweet feelings on the transition. Lake said, “It’s sad to say goodbye to what I’ve known for 22 years, but at the same time, it’s exciting to be in something totally new.” She started her teaching career in the Ogema School, but is now starting in a new location after all these years. Julie Lake said that compared to Prentice, Ogema felt like more like a small, tight-knit, close family group. Even though Prentice isn’t a big school, there is so much more space, giving it a different feel. When Lake was teaching in Ogema, she said, “I had a better knowledge of all the kids, because not only did I know the kids in my classroom, I knew everybody.” This year, she doesn’t know any of the 4K kids. The new elementary wing is so much bigger, and spread out and she hardly ever sees the 4K, kindergarten, and first grade classes. Back in Ogema she knew all the kids in the other grades because of the close proximity to each classroom. In Ogema, the students always ate lunch in their classrooms, but now in Prentice, they eat in the lunchroom. Lake said, “When we ate in the classroom, it felt like a family meal as we sat together in a small group. That is quite a contrast to the bustle of all the grades together in the large commons area.” Teaching and working in the new school, will take some getting used to, but she said, “It’s different in a good way.”
The move has been exciting, but also filled with new experiences. A hard part of the move has been trying to find a place for everything from the old classroom and putting it into the new classroom. Before, everything had a set place and now teachers have had to pack up everything and rearrange it in a new setting. One change specific to Julie Lake, unlike other teachers, is the distance to work. The Ogema School was a short two minute walk from Lake’s house. The Prentice School is a ten minute drive. Lake said she now has to factor in a few more minutes into her morning preparations than before. Not that it is a long drive, but just a change from the usual routine. Lake said one of the biggest struggles has been, “getting used to a whole new schedule.” She had basically the same schedule everyday for over two decades, and now things are very different. When Lake taught in Ogema, she was used to coming in every morning, turning on the lights and opening the doors to get the day started. She said that since the move, “I haven’t had to use my key once at school yet because the doors are open and there are people in the building already.” The Ogema School, didn’t have their own secretary for quite a few years, until last year for the temporary placement of all the elementary students in Ogema. When they didn’t have a secretary, the teachers would be in charge of answering the phones, answering the door, and essentially taking care of what needed to be done. Lake said now that they have had a secretary, she is “at a loss with not having to take care of those tasks.” The move to Prentice has brought many positives. After the move, the duties of the individual teachers have been cut back. In Ogema, Lake used to have more hours of duty per week, and now that has been drastically cut down. A completely new experience for Lake has been the opportunity to have high school students be her teacher’s aides. In her 22 years of teaching, this is the first time she has been able to utilize their help and enjoys the student involvement in the classroom.
The transition to the Prentice School from Ogema has been bittersweet. It has brought on many new and exciting opportunities, but also closed the door to many memories for past students and staff. Julie Lake sums up this feeling best by saying, “I compare it to having a pair of well worn pants. You have your favorite pair of jeans - they fit just right, they're all broken in and you love them. You know you have to go buy a new pair eventually because they aren’t going to last forever. You're hanging on to that other pair as long as you can and yes, you get the new pair and they are nice, they are great, they are new, but they aren’t the old ones. But eventually they will become your new comfy jeans, but it takes time.”
As with any new experience, there is always some time of adjustment. It is sad to see the Ogema School close, especially for those who were a part of its history and memories. One comfort to help lessen the loss is the knowledge that many more memories are yet to come and new history will be made.