The final month: GHS Alumni Association holds last meeting before school closes

 A moment of group prayer was held at the Germantown High School Alumni Association's final meeting before the 99-year-old school closes next week. (Aaron Moselle/WHYY)

A moment of group prayer was held at the Germantown High School Alumni Association's final meeting before the 99-year-old school closes next week. (Aaron Moselle/WHYY)

Doug Tolbert paced along a first-floor hallway inside Germantown High School with a heavy heart.

At times, the Class of ’73 alum stepped inside room 125 where, on Tuesday night, GHS’ alumni association held its final meeting before the school closes for good as part of the Philadelphia School District’s right-sizing efforts.

He never stayed in the room for long.

Troubling farewell

Still, Tolbert never thought of skipping the meeting. For him, it’s part of saying goodbye.

“It’s hard, but it’s easier knowing that I’m still a part of this because I’m helping to put it to bed,” he said. “It makes it a little bit easier than just standing off afar and just saying, ‘OK, it’s closing and I have nothing to with it.’

“This is like the last thing I can do for the school.”

Vera Primus, who heads the association, was equally troubled Tuesday night.

Unlike Tolbert, though, she’s been dreading the day when it came time to pack up the alumni office.

“I feel like I just lost my boyfriend,” she said. “Like a bad breakup, you just have to deal with it and move on with life, but it’s not an easy thing.”

What now?

It’s unclear what form the alumni association will take going forward.

The group will likely maintain its role as an organizer of alumni events, including class reunions, as well as an unofficial historic society.

“We’re not going anywhere because we can’t afford to go anywhere,” said Primus. “You’re always going to have Germantown High School alums because you’ve got history here.”

Still rueing the decision

Hervolene Mitchell, who taught at GHS for more than 15 years, said she thinks that the school could have stayed open until, and beyond, its centennial had community stakeholders come together.

“Parents didn’t come out in force to keep it open,” Mitchell said. “Political representatives of this area did not support keeping it open as they should have, and churches in this community were not as forceful as they should have been.”

Tolbert shared Mitchell’s disdain.

“The patient was in the hospital and nobody wanted to visit,” he said. “Now this happens and they want to come and cry at the wake. I just have no patience for that.”

During the meeting, there was some discussion of filing a lawsuit calling for the recall of elected officials in the area for their alleged failure to provide a “decent and through” public school education.

The idea drew some interest, but with the end of the school year just eight days away, there was also skepticism that such an effort could accomplish anything.

And there was prayer, in part, for the well-being of the GHS students moving onto new schools.

The final day of classes at GHS is June 21, which is two days after the Class of 2013 graduates.

As the final day of Germantown High School’s 99-year history approaches — the Class of ’13 will don caps and gowns on June 19 — NewsWorks will present a series of stories including interviews with grads and former students.

We want to hear from graduates and former or current students who wish to share their favorite memories from their time at the 99-year-old building.

To that end, we’re asking you to send your memories via email (subject line: My GHS Memories), post them in the comments section or call (215) 351-1293.

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