One word seemed to pop up most often Monday as Lake Villa Elementary District 41 teachers, students, board members and community members tried to celebrate the start of summer break amid the closing of Pleviak Elementary School.
"Today is kind of a bittersweet day," Board President Michael Conway said to students during an emotional flag ceremony in front of the school at Grand Avenue and Route 83 in Lake Villa. "We are all excited about the start of vacation, but today is sad because it's the day we are closing Pleviak."
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District 41 officials cited declining enrollment and budget shortfalls as the reason the 104-year-old school building is no longer needed.
Students from Pleviak will remain in District 41 and will transfer to Thompson School on Thompson Road or to Hooper School on Sand Lake Road in Lindenhurst for the next school year.
Neighboring Round Lake Area Unit District 116 has approved a tentative 10-year lease contract to use the facility to house its kindergarten program starting next year. District 41 board leaders were expected to approve their part of that lease agreement Monday night.
Pleviak's principal, Scott Klene, said teachers have been slowly packing boxes and moving out items.
He said the district will officially leave June 30.
"It's an emotional time for everyone," Klene said. "It'll probably hit me tomorrow when there isn't any chatter in the hallways or any students to greet."
Some teachers had tears in their eyes during the flag ceremony in front of the school. The American flag the school has flown during this year was retired for the final time.
"It not really depressing, but bittersweet really is a great word for it," said Jane Kron, who has been teaching at Pleviak for 15 years. "I guess we'll just have to take what we've built here with us to other buildings."
Pleviak was built in January 1910 as Central School, after the village paid the Lehmann family $300 for the land at what was then Antioch Road and Fox Lake Avenue.
The two-story, brick school had two classrooms on each level and a library when it opened. The first addition to Central School was the gymnasium in 1939, then eight classrooms, an indoor washroom, and a lunchroom were added in 1951.
The most recognizable change came in 1973 when the little school was renamed for Joseph J. Pleviak, a former teacher-turned-principal. He retired in 1972.
"The reason you are here today is because you are part of Pleviak history and legacy," Superintendent John Van Pelt told the crowd. "That's going to last forever."
Even students attending the last day said they will miss Pleviak's long hallways and friendly atmosphere.
"Pleviak is like home," first-grader Jackson Meyer said. "I'm going to miss it when it closes."