Dunbar Elementary Final Goodbye - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Final Goodbye for Dunbar Elementary School

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Laurel Historical Society holds Nostalgia event Laurel Historical Society holds Nostalgia event

LAUREL, Del. -Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary is one of the oldest schools in Sussex County. The school has an extensive history and was built in 1921. 

The school served the African American community in Laurel from 1921 until it was desegregated later. It served children in grades 1 through 11 for a lot of its existence, and for the past 50 years it served Laurel children in pre-K through first grade. 

Now, the school is transitioning into the new headquarters of the Laurel Police Department. The school closed its doors this past year, but was open Sunday night for alumni.

At an event put on by the Laurel Historical Society, many alumni of the school gathered to share memories of the school--some who attended during segregation and after. 

Artez West is the vice president of the Laurel Historical Society and moderated Sunday's event. He's also the third generation to attend the school, and has relatives who attended during segregation and after. 

"This building means so much to my family and it means so much to the town itself. Everybody's education in this town started in this building, on this hallway." Artez said. "It shows where we've been, and how we've grown." 

Dolores Hyland attended Dunbar in the first grade while it was still an all-black school. She says during her time at Dunbar, it felt like family and all her teachers knew her and other students by name. 

"It was a great experience, you found people to play with, students to talk with, teachers were very kind."

Hyland says she was out of school when desegregation began, but like many other alumni shared, there was apprehension at first. But that apprehension quickly dissolved, many said, and the change was soon embraced by students.  

This is the history, they don't want to be forgotten, many shared Sunday night. 

Danora Elzey attended Dunbar as desegregation was taking place. She said, "I do remember that feeling of being a little frightened, being a little afraid. I got my first white teacher in fifth grade and that was Ms. Anderson who taught us how to knit."

Elzey says the school adjusted quickly when she attended, and it was in large part due to the "right" choices many students made at the time. 

Elzey said it was heartwarming to hear so many stories shared at the Laurel Historical Society's nostalgia event. She said we have a long way to go as a country, but the school's history is worth preserving in the new building. She also said, it shows the growth of the school and town. 

Kendal Jones who also attended said he worked with the Seaford School District and Laurel School District as desegregation was occurring. His wife also worked at the school, and like the students, the teachers also adjusted quickly.

Jones hopes the history of the building, and the right actions the school body took at the time continues on. His wife was a sixth grade teacher. 

"When my wife did field trips and they used to do a lot of that then, I would always go as a chaperone, so I enjoyed these kids that I hadn't known," Kendal said.

Lorraine Hitchens attended Dunbar in kindergarten, and even worked there as an adult. She says she hopes the Laurel Police Department preserves pictures, and possibly the name of the building. This--she hopes will also preserve Dunbar's history, and the town's history. 

"I always say, love is the most important thing, no matter what race, creed or color, let us love one another."

Many who WBOC spoke with at Sunday's event said that for the most part, they were happy their school chose to be on the right side of history. 

 

 

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