‘Big feelings’: Broken Arrow teachers and students commemorate school’s closure

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Broken Arrow teachers watched as each class performed for the student body during an assembly celebrating their last day of school.

Broken Arrow Elementary teachers and students marked the end of an era on Wednesday.

Though kids were celebrating the end of the school year, it was also the end of the school’s 55-year history. The school marked its last day with an assembly and plenty of time to sign their friends’ shirts and applaud performances from their classmates.

For second grade teachers Kathy Meyer and Melissa Howard, the assembly felt like a good way for kids to celebrate the school. They told the Journal-World at the end of the school day that the student body had been celebrating a lot in the past several weeks, with the intent of “filling their hearts” with great memories of the school.

“We want them to look back on Broken Arrow as a happy time in their lives,” Meyer said.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Broken Arrow students pied their teachers in the face during an assembly celebrating their last day of the school year.

Of course, the celebrations were tinged with complicated feelings about the school’s closure. One third grade class, which recited a story to the student body, reminded their classmates “You matter” and “You will always be a Broken Arrow eagle.” And before members of Meyer’s class shared a list of words that made them think of a Broken Arrow student, she reminded the school that though the past week has been full of “big feelings,” it’s OK to feel that way.

That’s been a mantra before just today, Howard told the Journal-World. There’s been a focus on recognizing that there are heavy feelings to process, and the things the students can control are their ability to make good memories together and move forward positively. Her own class took some time to process and “grieve” in the immediate wake of the decision to close Broken Arrow.

“You can be excited about your move and your new school — because we were able to visit schools and see some exciting things like bigger playgrounds — at the same time that we can feel that loss and that emptiness,” Howard said. “And I think for this particular community, it’s a community that’s turning over and it’s a hot spot for growth and young families, and so that was a hard part to accept, that they didn’t take (that) into account.”

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Broken Arrow principal Amanda Green embraces some students on their last day of school.

There are complicated feelings for the two teachers, as well. They noted that Lawrence public schools has done a great job of helping ease the transition for both Broken Arrow and Pinckney, but that it also feels like they’ll soon be “splitting up a team” that works well together. Meyer and Howard both will be moving on to Sunflower Elementary, where they’ll continue teaching second grade, but they agreed that though their current colleagues will go on to do good work at other schools, it won’t be the same.

In part, Howard said that’s because Broken Arrow for a number of years has been more than just a place to learn. Many kids also come there for food, health care, counseling and a stable environment to be in.

“You can feel the spirit of the school,” Meyer added. “Broken Arrow has been here … 55 years, so obviously there’s been a lot of change in life and in communities and the way things are handled in 2023 versus 1968, and yet there’s still a spirit of a neighborhood school. You can feel it today, and we’ve felt it for a long time.”

The Lawrence school board voted to close both Broken Arrow and Pinckney as a way to free up money for teacher and staff raises and other budget priorities. Current Broken Arrow students will be divided among Cordley, Langston Hughes, Prairie Park and Schwegler elementaries next year.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Broken Arrow Elementary is pictured Wednesday, May 24, 2023.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Emotional students, parents and teachers embraced and took photos together outside of Broken Arrow Elementary on Wednesday, May 24, 2023, the school’s last day in session before closing for good.


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