An afternoon of emerging memories made tears fall and flashbulbs pop Thursday, as visitors enjoyed a final walkthrough at the former West Park Elementary School building.

While its brand-new neighbor continued receiving finishing touches next door, the 60-year-old school hosted former teachers, students and staff members for one last stroll through its halls.

The new West Park is part of a $69.9 million bond passed by district voters in November 2008 that is also bringing new Armand Larive Middle School and Sunset Elementary School facilities to students by next fall.

The attention of Hermiston visitors was drawn to familiar spaces Thursday at the elementary on Orchard Avenue, with some former school attendees even signing their name on the welcome wall.

Kristie Brewer, a resident of Anchorage, Alaska, who is in town to see family, shared stories of how lucky she and her  friends were while at West Park. Decades ago, discipline was certainly different, she said.

They stuck cheese in teachers’ tailpipes and locked a boy in the bathroom. All part of the West Park experience, Brewer said.

Leonard Buck, another visitor and hall-wanderer, said he hasn’t been back inside the school since he attended more than 30 years ago.

“This building sure looks bigger,” he said with a smile as he snapped pictures of the gymnasium.

Bill Quick also paced through the school’s passageways, collecting visual evidence of the setting for many memories — both pleasant and otherwise.

In 1968, his last year at West Park, Quick broke his arm throwing a baseball.

After the teacher found out about the accident, West Park’s principal told her to call Quick’s mother.

“That’s when I started sweating,” Quick said with a laugh.

Shane Pratt, current principal at West Park, said the new facility will be ready when its students enter it Tuesday, Jan. 4 for the first time — one day later than the rest of the district’s return from winter break.

Pratt said an informal open house will take place on Thursday, Jan. 13 at 3:30 p.m. with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony sometime later in the month.

The principal shared in the story-telling of Thursday’s walkthrough and said the school has addressed the main concerns from many former students: the mosaic and lettering resting on the building’s exterior wall.

No need for worry, he said, as they’re both making the move to the new facility.

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