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Students, teachers bid adieu to Carl Ben Eielson

Jon Thomason

In many ways, Thursday was a typical last day of school at Carl Ben Eielson Elementary School. Pupils signed yearbooks, sang songs, exchanged hugs and celebrated a year gone by.

But when the bell rang at the 46-year-old south Fargo school, it was for the last time.

"It's hard to leave a neighborhood school with an excellent reputation," said Karen Foss, a fifth-grade teacher who's taught at the school for 20 years.

"It's like saying goodbye to parts of your family," she said.

The school will be razed next month to free up green space for the new Carl Ben Eielson Middle School, which opens in the fall.


"It's kind of sad," said third-grader Josh Weiler as he cleaned out his locker. "But it's kind of happy that we get to go to a new school and meet new people."

Weiler will attend Fargo's Jefferson Elementary in the fall with some of his classmates. Carl Ben Eielson's 280 pupils will be split among Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, Clara Barton and Hawthorne elementary schools.

There were more end-of-the-year celebrations this year than usual, with pupils and staff commemorating the final days at their school. Students have also left their mark on the building, signing the gym wall and putting handprints on classroom windows.

The last day of school was "really fun," said fourth-grader Carly Schmit.

"I'm going to miss my friends and my teachers," she said.

Most of the faculty and staff will transfer to the new Kennedy Elementary School this fall, including 29-year Carl Ben Eielson physical education teacher Ron Fuglie.

"It'll be a new challenge," he said. "But you hate to see this place go."

Principal Maggie Mitzel said she has many fond memories of the building.


"It is just a building," she said. "But it's the people who have been in the building that give it the character, the warm feeling, the feeling of it being home."

There hasn't been much bitterness about the district's decision to close the school, Mitzel said. Teachers and staff understand that it's a necessary part of the district's realignment plan, she said.

"I don't see any hard feelings," she said.

"It's a change, and change always comes with a lot of emotion," Mitzel said, looking out at students on the playground - enjoying the last recess at the school.

Readers can reach Forum reporterBryce Haugen at (701) 235-7311

Jon Thomason

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