IT WAS the end of an era on Tuesday as pupils said a sad farewell to Park Road School.
After accepting pupils for 118 years the Douglas school shut its doors for the last time.
The school is now full of packed boxes, which are waiting to be transported to the grounds of the new Bemahague School in Onchan, the new home of St Ninian’s High School’s lower school.
In the run up to the closure, the school held open days where more than 400 people were shown around and shared their happy memories of their time there.
Head teacher Andy Fox took some of ‘old girls’ on a tour.
‘Some of the ladies on the tours said it smells exactly the same – some thought that was quite scary and some liked it,’ added Mr Fox.
The school has changed dramatically over the years. When it opened, on February 7, 1894, it consisted of four class rooms on the bottom corridor and four on the upper floor.
But since those early days, the school, which teaches pupils aged 11 to 13, has had a number of extensions built on to it.
On the first day the school opened 180 pupils arrived to begin their schooling. Due to the amount of extra room created through the extensions, the building accommodated up to 480 students prior to this week’s closure.
Mr Fox, said: ‘They had eight classrooms with the intention of teaching up to 300 pupils. They must have been tough in those days or maybe quite small to squash into the school.’
Between 1894 to 1927 the school was a mixed school. Later Douglas had separate boys’ and girls’ schools, with the boys at the current St Ninian’s site and the girls at Park Road.
The boys’ and girls’ schools merged in the seventies to form Douglas High School. Pupils often walked between sites for different lessons.
At that time pupils spent their first three secondary school years at Ballakermeen and went on to Douglas High School at 14.
In 1985 it was all change again, as St Ninian’s High School and Ballakermeen High School became separate schools catering for pupils from the age of 11 to 18. St Ninian’s pupils went to Park Road for their first two years.
In September Year 7, 8 and 9 students (aged 11 to 14) will move to the £33.8m school at Bemahague, so pupils will be there for three years rather than Park Road’s two. The facility has been many years in the planning. Work started there three years ago.
Park Road still has many historical features, including a fire from when the school was built. The cookery room has been in the same location since 1928.
Mr Fox, who has taught at the school since 1985, said: ‘While it is maybe not a modern building in which to teach in the 21st century, it certaintly has character and I think a lot of us probably have a soft spot for the building.’
Cyclist Peter Kennaugh, who is due to represent Team GB in the Olympics, and West End performer Sam Barks are two former students.
The head teacher is proud of the achievements of his former pupils. He said: ‘I remember Samantha very well. However, there are lots of students who have gone through this school and gone on to become doctors and very highly respected in their field. So lots of people have gone through and made a great success of their time.’
Despite the closure of the school being a sad occasion, Mr Fox stated that there hasn’t been that many tears shed in the school this week.
He said: ‘It is a little sad. However, going around talking to the children today they are excited because they are going on holiday, even though it is not summer weather at the minute, and because they are going to a fantastic new site at Bemahague. So we’ve got a bit of sadness but also a lot of excitement as well. The excitement and anticipation has kind of been greater than the sadness. I wouldn’t mind betting though that a number of people, over the next few weeks, might have a bit of a sad moment.’
A vast majority of equipment, including gymnastic equipment and pianos, is going to the new school site or the St Ninian’s site. Some of the primary and secondary schools on the island will be visiting Park Road School to see what equipment might be useful for them to recycle.
After 27 years at the school the head teacher has had many fond, funny and interesting memories of the school.
‘I have had fantastic times in this school,’ he said. ‘I think the vast majority of students, maybe almost every student, who has come through the school I have had good times with, and the same with the staff. I would say the whole experience has been a very positive one.’
A book of memories, which were gathered by the school during the tours, may be developed into something people can buy or be used as a social history of education.
The site is being taken over by the Department of Social Care and the building is set to be demolished.
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Weather for Isle of Man
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 10 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 22 mph
Wind direction: South west