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Oshkosh community comes out in droves to celebrate bittersweet goodbye for 68-year-old Webster Stanley school

webster stanley elementary school side entrance
Posted at 10:40 PM, May 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-07 23:40:54-04

OSHKOSH (NBC 26) — On a sunny Sunday afternoon, a crowd gathered inside a 68-year-old building in Oshkosh.

That building was Webster Stanley, a K-8 elementary and middle School that had been home to thousands of students and teachers since 1955.

The reason for the crowd? A final farewell before an impending demolition. Alums from over the past seven decades were invited to the goodbye celebration of a building that hosted a mix of formative years and lifelong careers for so many people.

The turnout for the occasion was huge.

"We have past principals, teachers, students coming back, just to reminisce; it's been a really good opportunity just to celebrate our strong history here," said Oshkosh area school district Superintendent Bryan Davis.

Davis said he saw heartwarming moments throughout the celebration, from people testing old locker combinations to sharing memories as they patrolled their old halls.

"We've also seen some friends connect that maybe haven't seen each other in 30 years," Davis said. "And so it's really been a great, just, celebration of the rich history and education we have here at Webster Stanley."

Davis said that the goodbye was one full of joy rather than grief because it represented growth for the area's school system.

"It's an exciting transition because we're respecting what we've done in the past and bringing all that strong history forward and then reconnecting them to the future and contemporary learning spaces, and it's an opportunity for our kids and families to have the best spacesg for their learning as possible."

Among those who visited was former Webster Stanley coach Jacob Jenson, who was a member of the staff from 1967 to 1991. He was remembered fondly by so many that he could barely make it down the hall without a warm greeting, a handshake, and a story.

"I'm meeting a lot of people again that I haven't met for a while," said Jenson, now in his mid-to-late 80s.

"And you left quite an impression. If they remember you from that long ago. You left quite the impression," his granddaughter told him.

Four years after Jenson's retirement, former student Megan Clark was only just beginning her scholastic journey as a kindergartener walking the same halls.

Sunday, she returned to see her old school and show her own kids around.

"It's bittersweet," she said of the day. "I think it still looks so great and so happy and cheery, that — I mean, I get why they want to do it, I do, but — it's going to hurt a lot when they when they tear it down and everything."

All the same, she was grateful for the opportunity to honor the home of many of her childhood memories one last time.

"I'm just really happy that they offered this for people to walk through because it is really a nice farewell," Clark said.

In June, Webster Stanley is set to be demolished to make way for brand new Menominee Elementary School.

Davis said there are plans to host open houses once the new school is built, and he expects there will be similar excitement from the community when the time comes to check it out.