On a day filled with memories, stories and even a few tears, students and teachers at Burnet on Friday gathered to mark the end of an era.
Burnet will merge with Travis, Powell and Logan elementary schools starting this fall, and students in this neighborhood will create new memories and traditions at their new combined campuses.
Students released 63 brown, gold and white balloons – one for each year the campus on Thomason Avenue was open – right as the last bell of the school year rang at Burnet.
“This is a celebration of the wonderful things that happened on this campus for so many years,” said Millie Williams, the interim principal at Burnet. “It is also a celebration of the great things that our students will accomplish as they move forward to their new merged schools. They’re going to be in good hands.”
Festivities began mid-day for students to celebrate the legacy of the school and its current and former students with a parade and cookout. Evening events gave students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community a chance to reminisce and say a final farewell.
Students and guests left the campus with a special Burnet bear in remembrance of their school.
Each grade level marched around the campus for a parade, giving them a chance to have a final walk through of their school. After the parade, students headed outside to play games and have one last play day with their Burnet friends. They played with not a care in the world, easily forgetting the circumstances of the festivities.
Former principal Carmen LaFarrell sat in the cafeteria, reminiscing about her days as principal in the 1980s. She had perfect recall of her role as the school’s leader, proudly talking about her reading and parental engagement programs.
“This school was very college-oriented,” she said. “We would say ‘when you go to college, not if you go to college.’ That was engrained in them the first day. I think that inspired them. This was a good school for the community.”
Grace Guzman spent Friday afternoon volunteering at her alma mater with her sisters cooking hotdogs and making sure the students enjoyed their last day. She glanced over at the fully-grown, mature trees providing subtle shade in the 100-plus heat.
“I was here when they planted those trees. I think I was in first grade,” said Guzman, a Burnet student in the 1960s. “I remember the big holes they dug.”
Guzman remembers her time at Burnet with fondness, recalling the good teachers involved in her education.
“It was like a security blanket,” she said. “It was a small school but very tight.”
“This is where I grew as a teacher. I’ve been here half my life,” said Fernandez, who also taught at Rusk Elementary. “It’s sad for me but then I know we need to move on.”
The veteran teacher plans to follow Burnet students to Travis to continue serving the families she’s come to know and love.
“We’re a big a family here,” she said. “It is like breaking up a family but we will see each other again because a family never really breaks apart.”