"Old" Kearney High School closes its doors on last day of school

KEARNEY, Neb. -- Kearney High School has had just one home for the past 55 years, but Wednesday, the doors closed for good. That's because this fall, students will be stepping foot into their brand new school building in southwest Kearney.

With Wednesday marking the official last day of operation for the old KHS, it made the last day of school that much more bittersweet for educators and students.

"I have seen a few tears just because it's something you've been looking at for so long and all of a sudden it dawns on you that it's not going to be there," said the school's principal, Dr. Jay Dostal.

Since 1961, the last day of school for KHS has been a day more focused on getting ready for the following year, but in 2016 - for more than 40 retired teachers who returned to see the old building off - it couldn't have been more about the past.

"I drove from Omaha because I wanted to be here," said Connie Francis, who taught for 31 years from the 1960's to the 1990s at KHS. "I wanted to see the building again. It might be a parking lot (soon), and my career here was so special."

Teachers gathered in the school's cafeteria to look back at the past half-century, and for one former principal, he says it's a fitting ending to the longtime school.

"There's a ton of memories that I have from 1983 until right now," Dr. Bill Kenagy said. "It's going to be great to see a lot of the teachers that I've worked with here that have retired."

The teachers watched a slideshow and of course strolled the halls one more time before shutting the doors, and for some, they knew that would be the most emotional part.

"It will be the classroom," Francis said before walking the halls. "That's where you worked, that's where you shared, that's where you grew and hopefully you let your kids grow a bit. I'll take a picture of the room that Mr. (Gary) Stickney and I shared forever, and it's just going to be hard."

School officials are set to get the keys to the new school handed to them in July, which will then lead to the massive move before the next school year begins.