COLUMBIA — At Columbia's Center for Gifted Education, instructors, former students and parents mingled and snacked on cookies and doughnuts during the "So-Long Celebration" Saturday, a reunion of sorts to say goodbye to the building.
In mid-November, the center will move from 918 Bernadette Drive to the old Field Elementary School, 1010 Rangeline St. Services at the new building will begin just after Thanksgiving.
The idea for the move arose last spring when Columbia Public Schools decided to get rid of rental property throughout the district.
*"Everything except the walls will go," said Terry Gaines, co-director for the gifted and talented program.
Because of the move, the Extended Education Experience will expand so that first and second grades will be able to spend a full day at the program. Right now, the teachers for these grades travel to 19 schools and spend 150 minutes with the students. The move allows for a better delivery of the center's services, Gaines said.
"(The move) is a beautiful thing," she said.
Co-director Jake Giessman said the new facility is bigger and more diverse. The center will now have a gymnasium, stage and playground as well as larger classrooms.
The reunion and celebration was an open house event. The PTA provided refreshments and snacks and pictures from the past years were spread out on tables for everyone to browse and take home.
Students were able to pick up letters they wrote to themselves during their time at the center. Typically this is done at the annual reunion in the spring for graduating seniors, but as a farewell to Bernadette, the tradition was part of the celebration.
"I think the event is a little nostalgic for everyone," Gaines said. "It gives us a chance to reflect. We will continue and even get better, but it's just a way to say goodbye."
Will Fandek, currently an eighth-grader, attended EEE in third through fifth grades. He said he is going to miss everything about the center and attended the event to say goodbye to the building.
"Everyday I came here, I could escape from regular school," he said. "I would come to this amazing place where you can learn stuff you can't learn anywhere else. Amazing classes, all of your friends and people who are just like you."
State Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, was in fourth grade when the program moved to its location at Bernadette and attended the "So-Long Celebration." The building has a lot of history for the community and personally, he said.
"Every school in Columbia is an important part of (the community's) history for somebody," he said, "so I think it is important to recognize that."