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Gordonville and Millersville elementary schools close

Millersville Elementary School, shown above, and Gordonville Elementary School closed at the end of the school year after being open 68 years. Photo by Jay Forness

Gordonville Elementary School and Millersville Elementary School held their last days of school on Thursday, with both schools set to close this summer before the start of the next school year.

The Jackson R-2 School Board voted to close the two schools in April, as part of a series of budget cuts for next school year. Running Millersville Elementary cost $509,304 last year and Gordonville Elementary cost $443,797.

Each school served an average of 39 students in kindergarten through second grade and opened in 1956. The schools held community receptions during the last two weeks of school to allow families to visit before they closed.

A reception was held on May 16 at Gordonville Elementary and on May 21 at Millersville Elementary. Both featured photos of the school throughout the years, as well as special desserts and posters for alumni and former staff members to sign.

Students from Gordonville Elementary will attend South Elementary School next year, and students from Millersville Elementary will attend West Lane Elementary School. These are the schools Gordonville and Millersville students previously transitioned to for third and fourth grade.

All teachers and staff members at Gordonville and Millersville were offered jobs at other Jackson R-2 schools. Gordonville Principal Shauna Criddle and Millersville Principal Shanna Wilson both said they have worked with their staff to make the transition for the students as easy as possible.

“Our students are all going into the school that they would have gone to anyway,” Criddle said. “Some of our staff members will be at South Elementary, so there will be some familiar faces there.”

Wilson works as the assistant principal at West Lane, where Millersville students will attend this year, and said all students have visited the school as part of a field trip this spring.

“We had already taken the second-grade students on a transition tour to West Lane,” Wilson said. “After it was determined that the school was going to be closing, we brought the kindergarten and first grade students to West Lane a couple weeks ago.”

During their visit, the students were able to tour the school and meet some of their future teachers.

Both principals spoke about how special the smaller schools were, with several of the teachers and staff members having gone to the school themselves. Criddle, who attended Gordonville Elementary as a child, said she was proud to be a part of the school because of the community it helped foster.

“Gordonville is very special because from the moment you walk in the door, you’re considered family,” Criddle said. “All the staff and the kids all get to know each other. The kids come back to see the school and the staff, because they form those connections. There’s a real community feel within the building.”

Wilson said the community was always there whenever there was a need at the school, with community members and organizations like the First Baptist Church in Millersville always stepping up to help.

“I’ve been in the Jackson school district for 20 years, and you don’t really know how special the ‘villes’ are until you’re out here,” Wilson said. “It really is its own little family environment. Everybody knows everybody and it’s very tight-knit.”

During the community receptions, Gordonville celebrated the second retirement for Geri Beussink and Millersville celebrated the retirements of Jackie Hopkins and Sherry Welker.

Beussink said she had many fond memories over the course of her teaching career at Gordonville, first as a full-time teacher and later as a part-time reading teacher. “It was small and it was special,” she said. “I got to see a lot of generations of the same families come here. You knew the whole community, and the community was behind us the whole time.”

Beussink said she was sad to see the school close, adding that she didn’t think it ever would and she would have the opportunity to always come back to visit or substitute teach. “They had said that it could close for years and years, so I just thought it would never happen,” she said.

Linda Sandlin, who has worked at Millersville Elementary since 1985, said she was going to miss the school and said she felt like she became part of people’s families by being a part of the school.

“Kids are resilient and the kids will adjust, but I hate to see a community lose a school,” Sandlin said. “I don’t think that’s good for any community. Everyone felt like they were a part of this building and were owners of this building. I think that’s what led to the success of it.”

Sandlin said she will fill a full-time reading teacher position next year at West Lane, where she will see former Millersville students.

“A lot of people have talked to me about feeling like they weren’t a number when they started school here,” Sandlin said. “Every teacher and every adult in the building knew every single child and knew them well. That’s what you’re going to miss when you go to the bigger school – not that it’s bad, it’s just different.”

Both Criddle and Wilson said the teachers and staff who made up each school were what made the school and will continue to be a part of Jackson R-2, even as Gordonville and Millersville schools close.

“Everyone is sad that they had to close the school,” Criddle said. “No one wants to do that, but we understand that our district has to do something and the decision had to be made. It’s unfortunate. The small schools have that special feel and there’s very few of those left anywhere, so it’s a loss – but it’s also something that couldn’t be helped in this situation.”

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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