Demolition crews have been working since 8am Tuesday to tear down Rockford’s Walker Elementary School on Post Avenue, as residents and former students watched their old stomping grounds come down.
The building has stood more than 100 years in the community.
“My daughter went here. My grandson went here,” said Karen, a neighbor.
“[It’s] really sad,” said Kim Foreman. “I have two daughters. They did not go to school here, but this is our neighborhood school. We played here on their playground all the time. In fact, the girls always referred to it as the park.”
Walker Elementary alum and neighbors watched through a chain link fence as the building was demolished, many of them sharing fond memories.
“Oh yeah, I got into trouble,” said Kim Arnold, a former student. “I put a roach in chalk, just drew pictures on the side of the building and they found out who it was and I had to scrub it off with the scrub brush.”
Jack Prather, who also went to Walker, said, “It’s a Prather clan that went here for years. It means part of our history, part of where we grew up. We have memories at the school, memories in the neighborhood. Our grandmother lived here, probably since 1910. We would go on lunch break over to her house, eat lunch, and then back to school.”
Walker had been closed since 2015, part of the Rockford School District’s 10-year facilities plan. It’s one of more than half a dozen schools being torn down. Two new schools will be built.
Once the Walker site is cleaned up, school leaders will transfer ownership of the land to the Rockford Park District.
“I’m hoping to put some green space and some things for the local kids,” Arnold said.
“Rather than it being an empty park, we look forward to it being a park,” Foreman added.
School leaders say bricks from Walker will be made available to residents who want them, in the near future.
As for the site itself, the Rockford Park District says it will hold community forums to determine what should go there.