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Washington Elementary holds final celebration before school closes

Posted at 5:28 PM, Apr 26, 2024

BILLINGS — The students and teachers of Washington Elementary were gathered on Friday morning for a surprise assembly celebrating the end of the school's final school year.

“We wanted to take a minute and celebrate what (the school) is today, what it has been for years, and thank the teachers and the students for all of the amazing things that have happened in this building," said Kelly McCandless, the executive director for the education foundation for Billings Public Schools, who helped organize the day's events.

The educators and students were provided with $500 by Western Security Bank for a celebration of their choice and drinks by City Brew Coffee as a part of the One Class at a Time program.

“We saw excitement – excitement, energy. I think they’re all happy to be together, but know that next year might be a little bit different and that’s okay," said Kate Guerrero with City Brew Coffee, about Washington Elementary's transition into a charter innovation center.

In January, the Billings school board voted to close the elementary school and convert the building into a charter school designed to help students graduate. Washington students will move to neighboring schools: Broadwater, Newman, and Miles.

The move will save the district $2.5 million, according to school district officials.

Although many at Washington said change can be tough, every teacher emphasized the significance of positivity.

“It’s important to teach our students that despite change, we can choose how we respond to those situations – good or bad. Us being educators in their lives, I think it's important that we model that," said Josh Monson, the principal of Washington Elementary.

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The elementary school's last day will be May 31. All of the staff will be transitioning to new jobs at schools across Billings.

“It’s just a shot in the arm. It’s an incredible thing to be valued and to be seen," said Rory Jetmore, a resource and special education teacher at Washington Elementary, "Our kids are going to be in the best hands.”