Students, staff bid farewell to Whittier Elementary School

Whittier Elementary first-grade teacher Kim Davison distributes candy to students shortly before leaving school Wednesday, the last day of school. Davison said she'll teach at New Tech@Cherokee Elementary next year. 

"Where are you going to be next year," Whittier Elementary School Principal Lisa Rogers asked students as they left their classes Wednesday afternoon.

After 111 years, the school called Whittier Elementary marked its last day of school Wednesday.

When the new school year begins in August, the Whittier school building will become Muskogee Public Schools' E-Learning Academy. Whittier students will be dispersed to New Tech at Cherokee, Creek, Tony Goetz and Irving elementaries.

Elexis Proctor said her 6-year-old son will go to Creek Elementary next year. She said she does not like the change.

"I loved that he was at Whittier, the teachers, the school it was all great," Proctor said. "He's sad about it, too."

Students, staff bid farewell to Whittier Elementary School

Whittier Elementary Principal Lisa Rogers, right, guides students through the hall on their way to school bus lines on the last day of school Wednesday. Students passed a medallion marking Whittier's 100th anniversary. 

Whittier Principal Lisa Rogers, who spent the past seven years as Whittier principal, said Wednesday was bittersweet.

"But we were kind of expecting it, especially after last year, when the pipe burst, and they tore down Whittier, so we were kind of preparing ourselves for the transition," Rogers said, referring to a sewer line that collapsed under Whittier's oldest wing in January 2020. The wing and some other portions of Whittier, were since demolished.

Whittier students have been attending the former Harris-Jobe Elementary since January 2020. The Harris-Jobe building will eventually be remodeled to house the Early Learning Center.

Students, staff bid farewell to Whittier Elementary School

At the end of school Wednesday, kindergartner Suzann Reynolds carries a bag of school supplies past a disk commemorating Whittier's 100th anniversary. Whittier marked its final day as an elementary school on Wednesday. 

Whittier librarian Rogena McClain recalled January 2020, when the Whittier staff spent a weekend getting the Harris-Jobe building ready for their students, "so that when they walked in, it would look like they had always been here."

"We even brought stuff that was from the entryway at the old Whittier site. We tried to make the entry look like the old Whittier site," Rogers said.

One entryway feature was a disk marking Whittier's 100th anniversary in 2011.

McClain said many students still missed the old building at 1705 Cincinnati Ave.

"They even still say 'when are we going home,'" she said. "And we can't go home again."

She said 75 to 80 percent of Whittier students either walked to the old school building or had parents take them.

Students, staff bid farewell to Whittier Elementary School

Whittier Elementary kindergarten teacher Cindy Metzger adds a second bag for Suzann Reynolds' school supplies during the final moments of Whittier's last day of school on Wednesday. 

McClain, who is retiring after 22 years with MPS, she said the main thing she will miss is the Whittier staff. 

Rogers said the Whittier staff "has always stepped up whenever anything has happened, and they're excited about their next venture."

Several teachers will be assigned to the rebuilt Tony Goetz Elementary School, some will teach in upper grades, Rogers said, adding that she's waiting for her next school assignment.

Third-grade teacher Amanda Barnes said her final day teaching Whittier students was kind of heartbreaking.

"It's the only place I've ever taught," she said. "Lisa hired me as a teacher for third grade." 

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