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June 5, 2014

Photo Gallery, Story: Three New Castle schools close today for good

NEW CASTLE — Today is bittersweet for New Castle Area School District elementary students and teachers.

Three buildings packed with history as longtime learning institutions will close their doors for good after the last students and workers leave at 12:35 p.m.

The Thaddeus Stevens, John F. Kennedy and West Side school buildings could be put up for sale this summer.

In the fall, students in first and second grades will attend the newly renovated Harry W. Lockley Early Learning Center on Scott Street. Third-graders will advance to George Washington Intermediate School.

Principal positions have been reshuffled and most teachers will have different classrooms.

Thaddeus Stevens School marked the occasion Monday with a closing ceremony. An ink portrait of Civil War-era educator, lawyer, state representative and abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens was the focal point of the observance.

During Stevens’ term as a legislator, a law enacted in 1834 established free public schools in Pennsylvania. In the next year Stevens worked fervently to defeat a measure to repeal it.

The closing was combined with the school’s annual carnival, where children played tug-of-war, got their faces painted and tossed water balloons.

Sam Biasucci of Shenango Township attended with his  wife, Joan. Now retired, she taught first grade for 26 years at Rose Avenue School and for 17 years at Thaddeus Stevens. Biasucci had attended Thaddeus Stevens in third grade, around 1942, and Joan was a first-grader there in 1946.

Biasucci remember when his wife had a broken leg and he took her to school every day and walked her in, through the empty hall in the front lobby.

“I thought, ‘what a place to hang a portrait of Thaddeus Stevens,’” he said, adding that he wanted the students to know why the school was named after Stevens.

He went on a quest for a picture of Stevens, and two years later, he learned that a building was being razed in Lancaster and someone found the old engraving plate of Stevens’ portrait.

 The  Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County copied the picture as a limited edition print, and Biasucci bought one. He had it framed and presented it to the school on May 1, 2002.

He noted that Stevens is buried in Lancaster.

The Biasuccis on Monday removed the picture from the school wall, where it has been for 11 years. They presented it during an assembly to principal Debbie DeBlasio, to be remounted inside the Lockley Early Learning Center.

Third-graders Neena Flora, James Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Tristan Marapese and Ally Blundo held the picture of Stevens and two framed lists of historical facts about him on stage in the gym before all of the students and teachers. DeBlasio and Biasucci related historical facts about the Stevens.

“You are the last class and the last staff to be here at this school,” DeBlasio said.

“The three buildings served the school district well,” superintendent John J. Sarandrea commented. He likened the closing “to the way we felt when the old high school was closing and we were moving into the new one. There are many wonderful memories over there years that lie in the three schools and we’re sorry to see those buildings go. But you’re also excited that everyone gets to move into a brand new state-of-the-art, top technology and climate-controlled building.”

***To view a photo gallery and purchase pictures, CLICK HERE.

 

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