Smiles and laughter filled on Friday night.
Hundreds of visitors to a family/alumni open house came together to share memories one last time before the elementary school permanently closes on June 3.
Although many in attendance described the school closure as “sad,” there were no long faces in sight. Instead it was a celebration of the 41 years of education at WCCS.
Current students ran through the decorated hallways with delight. Open classrooms displayed student science and art projects for all to see.
Hugs and handshakes were everywhere among many former students, some who were reuniting for the first time in many years.
Some alumni shared humorous stories while touring the school, some enjoyed the catered dinner in the gymnasium while reminiscing with current and former staff members.
While visiting an old classroom, 2007 graduate Alec Board praised the education he received there.
“It was great,” Board said. “It helped me in high school a lot.”
Sharon Elsesser graduated from WCCS in 1978 and later sent all four of her children to the school.
“I think this was a fun night,” Elsesser said. “I got to see some of my old teachers. ... Some of the teachers I had taught my kids (as well).”
The shuttering of WCCS was . The school will merge with and Christ the Good Shepherd in Lincoln Park in the fall. All three schools will operate on the campus of Good Shepherd under the name John Paul II Elementary.
Joe Kohn, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said declining enrollment at all three schools and budget deficits were the reasons for the merger.
WCCS was formed in 1970 as a joint venture of schools belonging to , and parishes. St. Elizabeth later backed out, but the other two parishes continued supporting WCCS.
The Rev. Michael Cremin oversees WCCS, as well as all three aforementioned parishes.
He said a spirit of cooperation existed between the participating parishes when WCCS was formed in 1970. That same level of partnership is necessary today, Cremin said.
“By coming together, there was a school formed for 41 more years,” he said. “My hope is by us coming together with Mount Carmel and Good Shepherd, the new school, JPII, will be around for at least another 40 years.”
No decision has yet been made regarding future use of the building once WCCS closes, Cremin said.
Phyliss Dahlstrom was in the first graduating class of WCCS in 1971, having transferred from St. Patrick. She said she is disappointed that her elementary school alma mater is closing, but understands that financial struggles have kept many parents from affording Catholic school tuition.
“I think it’s sad,” Dahlstrom said. “But it’s the economy. It’s hitting everyone.”
Larry Bagozzi, parent of a current second-grader, said he had hoped to send yet another child of his to WCCS.
“I’m not happy about it,” Bagozzi said. “We planned on trying to have our daughter come here too.”
Judy Maiga is a parent of a fifth-grade student and a member of the school’s marketing committee. She said a strong effort was made to keep WCCS from closing, but problems related to the current financial climate were too much to overcome.
“We tried everything we could think of,” Maiga said. “But it’s a bad economy and enrollment is down all over.”
Despite the closure, Maiga said, she is pleased with the new consolidated school and has already enrolled her child there.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Maiga said. “I think it’s going to be a good experience.”