Even the smells of the classrooms and hallways of Oneida Middle School remain the same after all those decades.
“The old woodshop still smells like a woodshop,” said Mark Guidetti, who walked through the building Tuesday.
Guidetti, who attended Oneida from 1980 to 1983, was among alumni and staff past and present, as well as community members, who stopped by the school Tuesday one last time for an open house before the doors shut for good. School officials closed the building this spring as part of more than $5 million in cuts to the school budget.
“All the memories came back when I walked in the place,” said Guidetti, whose mother also worked in the school’s cafeteria. “I wish they could find a way to keep it going.”
Karmen McEvoy said the people were eager to get in even before the official start time of 3 p.m.
“They were waiting at the door at 2:30 to come in so we let them in,” she said. “They sang us the Oneida song.”
Gene Drago of Glenville, who attended the school from 1980 to 1983, said it was like walking into a time capsule.
“It’s amazing how much of the stuff in there is original. The woodworking shop had a lot of the same drill pieces,” he said.
He recalled the time a classmate decided to climb the large smokestack by Ellis Hospital. He got halfway up and created quite a scene.
Jaddua “Dewey” Bennett, who was a science teacher at the school, agreed the building hasn’t changed too much. “The floors have the same cracks and everything else. It’s too bad they have to close it,” he said.
Paraprofessional Heather Baker looked at her classroom and noticed that her white board was already removed. School officials are taking what they can from the building for use in other facilities.
“I don’t think it’s going to hit until the first day of school when we’re not coming here,” said Baker, who also attended the school as a child.
Her colleague, Maribeth Perone, said Oneida was home. “No matter what, if you had a bad day, there was always somebody to talk to,” she said.
John Erickson of Schenectady and his son Courtney also toured the building. Both went to the school, as did Erickson’s other son, Philip.
Courtney Erickson recalled how the principal organized limousine rides to school for the top students.
In addition to the fun times, Courtney Erickson said the school gave them a good educational foundation. He, his father and brother all went to top colleges, he said.
People could snack on some cookies and drinks and view writeups hanging on the wall about the 27 alumni who were killed in war. The displays were organized by librarian Donna Phillips, who wore her Oneida T-shirt with the words “Optimistic,” “Nurturing,” “Enriching,” “Inspiring,” “Diligent” and “Achievers.”
Board of Education President Cathy Lewis said there have been no conversations about what to do with the building. “We would have to go through an appraisal process to fulfill our fiduciary responsibility,” she said.
Her main concern at the moment is getting all the furniture and equipment out of the building and to the other schools.
Max Fay 13, of Schenectady, said he is worried about what will happen to the teachers who are being reassigned to other schools. Less senior staff members were laid off.
He is glad the district decided to have the open house for the community. “It’s going to be really good for them to come back and see it one last time,” he said.