Maria Porchervina's entire family cried when they learned in the winter of 2000 that her daughters' Longfellow Elementary was closing.
Today they still don't like driving past the empty Longfellow building, but Porchervina's daughters are thriving at their new schools, and they've put the closure behind them.
"Unfortunately life doesn't always stay the same, but you do get through it," she said.
With Greeley Elementary students and parents now facing closure and transfers to other schools, Porchervina and other former Longfellow parents said they want to assure them it's not as bad as they fear. And their best advice is to be as positive as possible.
Yes, it's awful to see your school close, they said this week. And yes, you do lose touch with friends as
children are sent to other schools. But new friends are to be made, new buildings to explore and new teachers and principals there to ease the transition.
Susan Yelenich was head of the Longfellow Home School Association and rallied parents and teachers in the battle to keep the school open, wearing Longfellow shirts and waving signs at board meetings. She feared moving from a small, close-knit school to the much larger West would be a disaster, and daughter Meagan also worried.
"I think a lot of my anxiety rubbed off on Meagan that summer," Yelenich said. "But once she started she loved it at West."
"It's been a great experience for us. Meagan is actually sad about leaving West next year for junior high," she said. "I never thought it would be that easy."
Lyn Stordahl said parents are key to making the move pleasant for their children.
Her son struggled at first with the change, but now enjoys new friends at Margaret Leary Elementary, where Stordahl also works as a playground monitor.
"The kids took it really hard, so we parents had to be positive for them," she said. "And it's hard for parents, too, because you're used to your PTO members and the teachers you know. But now Nick loves it here."
Porchervina said the last days at Longfellow were bittersweet, especially the ceremony for the last graduating sixth-grade class, which included daughter Ashley.
"They really talked about it being the last of the best, which made it very, very special for the kids," she said.
But after the tears, the family moved on.
Younger daughter Arika transferred to West Elementary while Ashley went on to East Middle School. Arika likes the extras at West, formerly a junior high, such as a separate art class and more hot lunch options. The family has met great new friends, families and teachers at both schools. Porchervina said Greeley parents should know it gets easier.
"It all works out in the end," she said. "Sure we miss Longfellow. But it's been great at West, too."
Peggy Huber's children had a tougher time, struggling for most of the first year through the "gruesome" adjustment, she said.
They're doing fine three years later, but Huber said parents have to aware it can be tough for kids to lose familiar friends, teachers and a school building all at once.
Many of her son Johner's friends transferred to other schools, "so it was like moving to a whole different town for him," Huber said.
Still, the teachers and now-deceased Principal Bob Heard at Emerson Elementary were always ready to respond to her children's needs.
When Huber saw her son pacing and friendless on the playground, Heard instituted the buddy program, pairing Longfellow and Emerson students together for recess and lunch. When Johner missed a few days of school, his teacher even visited their home to make sure he knew he was missed. And about a month into the year when her daughter Becky Jo didn't want to go to class, Heard personally met the second-grader at his office each day and walked her, hand-in-hand, to the room.
It can get better, but Huber urged Greeley parents whose children face similar struggles to speak with teachers and principals immediately, adding a transfer is particularly tough for shy students.
"My heart aches for those guys at Greeley," she said.