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Final bell for Adams school

Adams school alumni from left to right, Dennis Skorheim, Terry Thorvilson and Gene Hendrickson, lower the flag for the last time to close the school in Adams on Friday as students, teachers and staff look on.

ADAMS -- Eli Johnson giggled Friday as Principal Barbara Kendall covered Superintendent Frank Schill's hand with paint.

"This is fun," the first-grader said as he and a couple of schoolmates helped the superintendent add his handprint to a wall of history that reads: Adams-Edmore Elementary School: Where We Belong.

And when the final bell rang a couple of hours later, Adams Public School closed its doors for the last time.

Beginning July 1, Adams will become part of the new Park River Area School District under a reorganization that voters in both districts approved last year.

In the fall, the 27 K-6 students will travel either 16 miles east to Park River or 18 miles west to Edmore, where the school will be expanded from grades 7-12 to K-12.

While families have until the beginning of the fall term to decide which school their children will attend, Kendall said most of those who have committed say they will go to Edmore.

One last day

But that's an entire summer vacation away.

On this last day of school, students, staff and alumni preferred to have some fun and to reflect.

"We know there are emotions, some of them sad," the principal said, "but we're treating it as a celebration."

After an awards ceremony and their final lunch at the school, they gathered for a variety of activities.

Science teacher LouAnn Thorvilson approached a table of students, presenting a butterfly kit, with five new butterflies that had emerged Thursday and Friday.

"Just in time," she said.

"Can anyone tell me the all of the stages?"

First-grader Erika Ketelsen was quick to respond.

"Egg. Larvae. Pupa. Chrysalis. Butterfly," she said. "It's metamorphosis."

Students then gathered in the gym to make kites before rushing outside to fly them.

They learned a lesson in the process -- kites made of vinyl material stand up much better than others in the stiff 25-mph wind.

Fifth-grader Austin Kratochvil was one of the fortunate ones with a vinyl kite.

"I just let it go and it started to go up," he said.

Sixth-grader Haylee Linstad had some success with her paper kite. But like others around her, she had to run and relaunch hers time and time again.

As the clock neared 3 p.m., some alumni gathered at the school entrance, waiting for the closing ceremony.

Among them were Dennis Skorheim, Class of 1945; Paulette Misialek, Class of 1962; Richard Grove, Class of 1964; Denise Skorheim-Bata, Class of 1975; Terry Thorvilson, Class of 1968; and Gene Hendrickson, Class of 1956.

Adams Public School had a high school back then. The last graduating class was 2001.

"It's kind of a sad day," Skorheim said as he watched Skorheim-Bata thumb through an Adams history book.

Reminder of past

But there have been sad days in the past, too.

This school was dedicated in 1962. It was a sign of hope after a couple of dark years for this tiny community in western Walsh County. Three fires between 1960 and 1962 claimed three Adams landmarks: the Adams Opera House in 1960; the school in the fall of 1961; and Adams Lutheran Church a few months later.

"We had classes all over town," Misialek said, "and they made it work."

The present Adams City Auditorium was built after those fires.

"The auditorium was built for the sole purpose of the school," said Skorheim, who served on the local school board in the 1960s and 1970s. The school district's $4,100 contribution was the largest for the project, he said.

As the 3:15 p.m. bell neared, the principal ushered the crowd outside for the flag ceremony, performed by Skorheim, Thorvilson and Hendrickson, a retired Marine Corps colonel.

As the crowd started to disperse, some of the students gathered at the school entryway to show family members their final messages, written in chalk:

"Goodbye," wrote fourth-grader Jordy Bushy.

"It's an awesome school," wrote fourth-grader Jaden Rose.

"I will miss you A-E Elementary," wrote fourth-grader Nicole Voeller.

Her sister, Heidi, added: "Best school ever."