OIL CITY, LA (KSLA) - It was a bittersweet day for many teachers, parents, students and staff at Oil City Magnet School. After 91-years of operation Thursday, June 23 was the last day of school ever for the aging building.
"I actually got teared up when the board voted to close," recalled longtime principal Mike Irvin, referring to the Caddo Parish School Board's 11-to-1 vote Tuesday to close Oil City Magnet and merge with a school in Vivian.
Irvin expressed excitement about the merger but also reflected, "My children went to school here. I have grandchildren in school here. And so, not only as a vested interest as a principal but as a parent and grandparent."
Irvin helped plan the merger after discovering it would have cost $5 million to keep Oil City Magnet open another year.
Irvin wasn't the only staff member conflicted about the big changes underway. So too was the school's security coordinator David Wright who told us, "It's kind of bitter that we have to go. But, it's sweet that we are going to move."
Only about 3 dozen of Oil City's nearly 400 Pre-K through 8th grade students were even present on the final day, while the 47 teachers and staff spent much of the day packing up to make the 9 mile move north to Vivian.
Terrie Jones, a long-time teacher's aide, also known as a para-professional, expressed confidence in the future.
"I think the change is going to be good."
And many reflected on leaving this 91-year old building. That included fellow para-professional Rhonda Denoux who confided, "It's not a building, it has a heartbeat, to me."
The new North Caddo Elementary and Middle School opens August 15 with a projected enrollment of about 900 students, with room at the facility for 200 more students in the future. The consolidation is expected to save half a million dollars a year.
Principal Irvin will serve as the first principal of the new school. He said to help unify the two schools into one they will be picking out new colors, a new logo and even a new mascot. Irvin said it will be the students who make the final vote on those decisions in the first month of school.
Irvin added that they will conduct a survey of parents once the new school opens to see if they want to go year-round like Oil City Magnet did and whether they want to have school uniforms like Vivian students wore. Both of those decisions would not become effective until the following school year.