A child never forgets that first day of school and I remember mine like it was yesterday.
It was late summer of 1987 when I got dropped off for my first day of kindergarten at Eastside Elementary School on Barrett Road.
Back then the lower grades used the southernmost entrance against Meadow Lane. My momma dropped me off right there in front and I remember stepping out of that tiny red Ford Escort that seemed as big as a Cadillac to a 5-year-old.
The school already had some age on it by the late-80s, but it seemed like a magical place to me. The pods and open classroom setup were unique and I still have trouble concentrating in too much quiet, even at 39.
Beside my two years at Calhoun First Baptist Preschool, Eastside was the only thing I knew a school to be from the age of five until I finished third grade.
Fast forward three decades and I had kids of my own, and our first two daughters also walked into the old Eastside building for their first real school experiences. By this time, however, it was home to Calhoun’s central office and pre-K.
This gave me a chance to roam the halls again. The halls and rooms that used to seem so enormous now appeared tiny, and the building was showing its age ... but so many of my early memories still lived inside those walls.
Before our third daughter was old enough to make it a clean sweep of Eastside alums, it was announced the school that was built in the late ’60s would finally be replaced with a new Early Learning Academy that would house the city’s pre-K and kindergarten students.
The pandemic robbed Eastside’s last batch of kids most of their last semester at the old building that was built closer to the Spanish Flu outbreak than COVID-19.
Before the first dozer was moved onto the property, me and the family drove over to Eastside and us alums of the school took a picture out front. It’s a picture I’m glad I thought to get before the building was gone, and I’ll treasure it forever.
So our littlest one will go to pre-K in its temporary home at Calhoun’s primary and elementary complex, but — if the schedule holds up — will get a chance to go to kindergarten in a brand new building built on the same spot where her dad stepped out of that little red car so many years before.
Sometimes things are torn down and replaced too soon, but there are times when change is good. As much as I loved the memories in the old Eastside school, as I’m sure so many alums did before and after me, it was time for the strange old brick school built on a swamp to go.
We have some of the bricks from the school, given out last year, and I’m so happy I got a chance to relive my early years of learning with two of my girls. But the new facility will be an asset to the community and can serve Calhoun’s children for at least as many decades as its predecessor.
I look forward to seeing how the new building turns out and watching another little girl make her own memories there.