Community bids fond farewell to Ledyard Center School

Ledyard — Ledyard Center School got a sunny sendoff Saturday as students and alumni stopped by to visit and reminisce before the school closes in June.

Organized by school secretary Shelly Williams and speech-language pathologist Shannon Olexy, the gathering was a way for the community to share stories and celebrate their time at the school. They dubbed it a “family reunion” because LCS created such a tight-knit community of current and former students, staff and faculty.

“That has always been the feel of this town and the school in particular,” Olexy said. “We’re just a family.”

Williams said the idea got its start from a Ledyard Center School memories group she created on Facebook, where many members asked whether the school would have a reunion before it closed. A specific reunion page was created in April, and Olexy said it has since taken on a life of its own, with members chipping in to bring entertainment and food.

Saturday’s event, spread out over the whole day to give families time to drop in, featured a slideshow and tables full of class photos in the gym, musical performances by faculty and staff, and the Cheese Trailer in Paradise mac and cheese food truck. The hallways also were open for families to tour the school one more time, whether they were looking for clues in the scavenger hunt or simply taking a walk down memory lane. Teachers and staff wore T-shirts recognizing the school’s 70-year run.

Chip Moran, a 1976 LCS graduate, came to the reunion with his youngest son, Kyle. He said his three kids as well as his three sisters also attended the school, pointing out where he used to play various sports and the rooftop where he would climb up after hours with friends in middle school to retrieve balls. He mused about how things at the school and in Ledyard Center have changed over the years from when he lived down the road, but even now, he can run into a former classmate and converse about something that happened in kindergarten as though it were yesterday.

Kyle said the best parts of his time at the school were all the little memories, like reading in the alcoves, playing gaga during recess, or setting up a gauntlet at the swingset for his friends to run through. He noted that his teachers were always there to help him when he needed it, and he learned a lot about dealing with emotions and overcoming obstacles while at LCS.

Both said it was sad to see the school go but enjoyed their time there.

“They can get rid of the school, but they can’t get rid of the memories,” Kyle Moran said.

Williams and Olexy said teachers and staff have been helping students through the transition throughout the school year, including meeting fellow students at their new schools through an intradistrict pen pal program. They said the closure has been difficult for everyone — they said the all-school photo taken last week hit them especially hard when the photographer told everyone to wave goodbye — and they wanted to keep it positive for the kids and one another rather than turning the closure into something sad.

While they wouldn’t reveal exactly what it would involve, they said that Challenge Day, the school’s annual day of outdoor games and activities, will be extra special this year, and they’ll still send the kids home on the last day of school with a bubble salute.

Approved by a landslide vote at the town meeting May 15, Ledyard Center School and 18.8 acres of town land will be sold to developer Sal Monarca for $500,000. His mixed-use proposal to the town earlier in the year included retail and dining space and senior housing. The proposal was lauded for its adaptive reuse of the historic building, which was built in 1948.

The town would retain the current town green property. Students who would have attended the school in the fall will be reassigned to the other three elementary schools in town, with the exception of upcoming sixth-graders, who will go to Ledyard Middle School.

a.hutchinson@theday.com

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