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Editor's Voice: Demey School was more than just a building

Posted 7/30/13

On the outside, the Alice Demey Elementary School wasn’t particularly outstanding – flat, streamlined, scaled-down Modernism, typical of the post-war 1950s. It’s what was inside that Middletown residents remember most.

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Editor's Voice: Demey School was more than just a building


It was a warm, caring place with dedicated teachers. In the 50 years it welcomed Middletown’s children, it provided wonderful memories, friendships  and, of course, reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. It was public education performing at its finest level.

Those were the memories that poured from readers upon reading our story in the July 24 edition about Penn State Harrisburg’s plan to demolish Demey School. Demey closed in 2003, and was bought by the university in 2005. Penn State Harrisburg had planned to turn it into dormitories, but has decided it would be best to demolish it rather than let it sit empty for an undetermined time until it can develop the property. The school is in disrepair, and renovating it isn't economically feasible.

Many who read the story, in our weekly edition, our e-Edition or on our website, had fond memories of the school. A number of readers went further with their reminiscing: Their bittersweet memories of the school, of their teachers, of the fun and learning and compassion that marked its daily performance revealed their love for the school, even decades after they attended it.

This was a school where the students marched to the Frey Village retirement community every Halloween to delight the residents there. This was a school where staff even painted the halls themselves, to make the environment as pleasant as possible. This is a school where everyone cared.

“The world needs schools like this,’’ wrote one resident’s post on our Facebook page.

School districts are still trying to provide them. Residents seem to agree they certainly succeeded at Demey.

It is, perhaps, because of the school’s reputation – it is named for the late Alice Demey, a longtime district teacher beloved by students and fellow teachers – that Penn State Harrisburg intends to preserve an area of trees on the property that were planted in Alice Demey’s honor.

"We want to be sensitive to [her legacy]," said Don Holtzman, the university’s senior director of student services.

The demolition of Demey School will, no doubt, be a sad vision. Demolition is expected to begin within a year. But it was never about the bricks and mortar. Its success was more human than that. Its legacy will live long after it is gone.{jcomments on}


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