HUNDREDS of past pupils and staff have said their final farewells as they returned to the classroom for the very last time.
Former students and teachers of St Michael’s Catholic Academy, Billingham, took one last look around their old school building, on Beamish Road, before it closed its doors after 50 years of teaching.
The Academy, formerly St. Michael’s RC School, which is due for demolition later in the year has been replaced by a new state of the art multi-million pound new build, in front of the old school site, which opened to pupils in May.
St Michael’s Headteacher Andrew Ramsey said: “With the move into our new Academy and the old building closure imminent, we thought that it would be an important and valued gesture to invite all past students and teaching staff to come back to St Michael’s to have one final look around.
“It‘s wonderful to see so many people here because it is much more than just a building; it is somewhere that has embraced the whole community for over 50 years, somewhere that holds many memories for many people through good times and sometimes sad times.
“Today is a chance to remember and cherish the relationships we have all shared, so that the present and the past become one. We embrace all of the values and riches of St. Michael’s into our new Academy, to provide continuity and growth for future generations.”
Visitors were granted access all areas of the old school and were each presented with a book detailing the history of St Michael’s School from 1964 to the present day written by retired history teacher and former Assistant Head Eddie Curran.
Mr Curran who came to take one last look around his former workplace with fellow ex teachers Michael Doherty and Bill McNeill said: “I feel quite emotional today - St Michael’s has been a huge part of my life since I started teaching here in 1970.
“My abiding memories of the school will be ones of happiness, of wonderful pupils, committed staff and supportive parents.
“It was important for me to come back one last time to see my old classroom and also to pay my respects in the school’s garden of remembrance to those teachers and pupils who can’t be here with us today.”
Ex pupil Monica Smith, nee McDonald, 63, of Thornaby, was one of the school’s first pupils in 1964.
“A lot of the old building is still the same as when I came here aged just 12,” she said.
“I have a lot of good memories here and I think it will be sad when the school is eventually pulled down but life goes on.
“This may be the end of the school as I remember it but it is also the start of a whole new chapter for the next generation of students and teachers at St Michael’s Academy.”