BERLIN — When the dismissal bell rings at Brown Elementary School at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, it will mark the start of summer for students and the closing of the last of Berlin’s three original public elementary schools.
Opened in 1913 and expanded in the 1950s, the BES, as it’s known, is the victim of years of the state of New Hampshire’s non-support of public education, according to Corinne Cascadden, the superintendent of Berlin Public Schools.
In turn, that lack of state funding, Mayor Paul Grenier has said, caused the Berlin City Council to direct all departments to make deep cuts when setting the 2019-2020 municipal budget.
For the School Department, the cut represented about $1.1 million, $300,000 of which will be realized by closing the Brown School and relocating all of its K-2 students and all 52 employees to Hillside Elementary, which will become K-6.
The City Council is expected to finalize the municipal budget on June 17.
“It’s had a good run. Change has to happen,” said Cascadden, who was principal of the Brown School for 23 years, and for the last 10 of those years, also the principal of both the Bartlett and Marston elementary schools in Berlin.
Upon being named superintendent a decade ago, one of Cascadden’s first acts was to reorganize the city’s elementary schools, which involved closing Bartlett and Marston.
A Berlin native who grew up in the Norwegian Village section of the city where the BES is located, Cascadden said she hopes the city-owned building will be put to some educational use in the future.
Brown Elementary Principal Susan Griffin, who has taught at the school for 40 years and served as its head for one, said BES students last week were treated to a bouncy house and a “field day” on Monday as part of the wind-down of the school year.
Among the many BES alums who came out after classes Tuesday afternoon for an open house at their alma mater was Camille Caron.
A Berliner turned Florida snowbird, Caron has a special place in her heart for Brown Elementary School. She was a student there, as were her two children, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Caron also taught at the BES from 1972 until 2000; her niece, Carissa Dupont, teaches there now.
“After such a long history of this building being part of my life, it’s heartbreaking,” Caron said.