By PAUL WHEATLEY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
STRUTHERS -- Matron Judy Denmead has tidied up Lyon Plat Elementary School for 13 years, every week night.
But last week was bittersweet for Denmead and fellow workers who helped keep the school sparkling for so many years -- they were making a final sweep of the building before it's torn down, beginning Monday, in favor of a two-story centralized facility that will house all elementary pupils. Currently elementary pupils are split among four buildings.
Denmead, 63, didn't seem to mind graffiti-strewn walls with stick figures representing teachers, names of pupils and sayings like "Thanks for the memories" that covered the 42-year-old building.
Administrators condoned the graffiti last week so pupils past and present could bid adieu to their school.
Nostalgia: And while Denmead welcomes the future, she has plenty of nostalgia for the past.
She said she'll miss the family atmosphere, the chats after school with faculty calling themselves the Ladies of Lyon Plat and even the musty "Lyon Plat smell."
She said she's too set in her ways to work in a new facility.
"I'm going to retire," she said. "I don't want to go anywhere else."
Denmead said people have come searching for school memorabilia -- she took a clock.
There's even graffiti from a Lyon Plat student from 1961 who came to say goodbye.
Custodian: "This brings a tear to my eye," said Jim Marino, head district custodian.
Marino lives across from Lyon Plat and saw it built as a child.
He'll see a new facility built on the property, which is scheduled to open in September 2002.
New building: Superintendent Sandi DiBacco said the school will boast a much larger cafeteria than its predecessor, technology rooms and better safety accommodations.
"I would say the biggest benefit of [the new] building is clear visibility," she said.
Someone standing at the building's main entrance can see clear down both main hallways, she said.
The construction is part of an estimated $30.8 million district project that includes a new high school and additions to the middle school. The state will cover $26.5 million in construction costs.
Betty Washington, Lyon Plat principal for five years, is excited for the new building but will miss her school's cozy atmosphere.
"It's sorrow and it's happiness," she said.
Someone named Alicia Chapman might have captured the feeling best with the saying she wrote on a Lyon Plat wall: "Good-bye to the old, hello to the new & amp; many, many more wonderful years."