On losing an elementary school

There’s something romantic about your elementary school, and that doesn’t go away with age.

It’s the place where you made your first friends on your own. The place where you have your first crush. The time when field trips were the most treasured day of each month.

For me, that place was Shreiner Academy.

I was a student at the private school from first through fourth grade, 1993 through ’97. For the last two years, I’ve resided less than half a mile from my old elementary school, and I’ve driven or jogged past the tiny campus just about every day.

In December, Shreiner Academy was sold and shut down. Weeks ago, signs were placed outside its gates informing the public that the buyer intends to turn the land into a residential area, and Shreiner Academy likely has just weeks to live in its current disheveled, unkempt state.

During a Sunday morning run, I walked the hallowed grounds of my former elementary school one last time and snapped some pictures, which you can see below. It’s probably the last time I’ll ever see most of the buildings that housed me for the first few years of my education.

I also reached out to some of my former classmates for this piece because I wanted to include their thoughts on what Shreiner Academy meant to them. Here’s what they had to say.

“When I first moved to Atlanta from Omaha, I was pretty scared to live in a new city and leave all my friends. However, Shreiner Academy got me through the tough times. Many of my classmates then became friends, and for that, I am forever grateful to Shreiner Academy.” -Julian Wiggins

“Shreiner Academy will always hold a special place in my heart because it taught me the importance of a good education. My parents didn’t have much when my sister and I were growing up. Rather than saving for a nice house or sending us to the low-rated public schools in the area, my parents chose to drive us 45 minutes and spend their hard-earned money on our education instead. A lesson in gratitude that will forever stay with me.” -Becki Broughton

“Shreiner was the first school that I made friends at. I had gone from one school to another getting picked on at each one. Shortly after attending Shreiner I made two lifelong friends in the second grade! My favorite memories at Shreiner have got to be the trips to Laurel Lake. I learned to paddle boat, rope climb and find rocks with fools gold.” -Anthony Bandoly

“Shreiner Academy was more than a school to me. As a second and third grader, it was my refuge, the place I ran to in order to feel safe, heard and appreciated. I still remember my teachers (Mrs. Okoro and Ms. Russel, now Mrs. Mooseburger). At the time, my family was struggling financially, to the point where we had to visit food pantries so we didn’t have to go without. We lived in a low-income neighborhood, zoned to an underperforming, low-funded public school district. My parents scraped together what little they could so I could attend a school that challenged me academically and gave me exposure to other opportunities. Now as a former NFL cheerleader and successful entrepreneur in the Bay Area, I credit my teachers and experience at Shreiner for giving me a solid academic foundation and instilling a sense of hope that you can build the life of your dreams.” -Danetha Doe

Here are some photos from my stroll down Memory Lane. Be sure to read the captions, where I explain what each photo meant to me and what I was thinking as I saw each section of the campus, 18 years after the last time I walked through it.

All photos by Sean Breslin

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