Everett Meredith will go, but memories remain: Community reminisces as demolition begins
MIDDLETOWN -- In 1929, Middletown School opened its doors with 434 students and 17 faculty members, housing grades 1 through 12 until it became Middletown High for 70 years.
Twenty years ago, the South Broad Street building became Middletown Middle School and then Everett Meredith Middle School in 2002 after community members petitioned the Appoquinimink Board of Education to rename it after the former history teacher and principal.
The structure has served thousands of students throughout its long history, but last month demolition began on the historic building.
A new middle school — still to be Everett Meredith — will be built in its place. It will include architectural references to the original building and a history wall, which will be made from its wood and bricks and featuring donated mementos from past classes.
The two-year renovation began last month with the removal of trees, the sidewalk and part of the parking lot.
As the demolition started during the last week of July, former students and community members reminisced on their favorite memories with the building.
Sad, but needed
Carlton Parker — who was a Everett Meredith counselor, assistant principal and principal — said the building holds a lot of memories for Middletown residents, with many remembering the days of the old Middletown High School, but to keep up with technology demands, a new school is needed.
He has had positive and negative experiences at the school, and the biggest struggle was keeping up with modern technology in a building that made it difficult.
“The building has a great amount of age and was difficult to maintain, especially with the demands of providing a meaningful 21st century education to our students,” Parker said. “The district continued to take steps to meet the demands until doing so became impossible.”
Despite the problems with technology, some of his greatest memories involved the people at the school. He saw staff and students grasp the importance of learning and desire individual growth.
Christina Biederman, Middletown High School 1995 graduate, said she understands why it has to be torn down but she is still upset to see it go.
“This was my home for four years. The only place I felt safe. The place I met some of my best friends, my first love, two teachers that literally saved my life,” she said. “I know I will have the memories, but I still find it very sad.”
Most residents are like Biederman. They are sad to see the school go, but they know the reconstruction is needed.
Abbymanuel Rosario, Middletown High School 2012 graduate, said he would have been outraged to see the school torn down and built into something new, but because it will be a new Everett Meredith, he is happy about the renovation.
“We're old, we've had our memories in the school the way it was. Now it's time for the younger generation to make their own memories,” he said.
Connie Marshall-Olsen, a bus driver for the Appoquinimink School District, did not attend the school, but her late sister graduated from Middletown High in the 1980s.
Because she is not a taxpayer for the district, she doesn’t have an opinion on whether it gets demolished, but she has loved looking at the building and remembering her sister’s graduation day while she waits for the kids to be dismissed from school.
“It hurts my heart to see the school gone. I did not have many years with my sister so being able to look at a place she walked proudly across the stage at, will be missed very much,” Marshall-Olsen said. “I was lucky to drive there five days a week and I am grateful my bus route took me there. I felt closer to my sister every day that I was in that parking lot.”
Kevin Manz was one of the first groups of middle schoolers to attend Middletown Middle School and he recalls skateboarding through the halls after school.
“I remember volunteering to set up for the dance in eight grade. Between school letting out and the dance I took that time to skateboard up and down the ramp to the cafeteria,” Manz said.
Although he didn’t attend the school, rising Middletown High School senior William Wrinn went into the building a few times for dance recitals, specifically remembering his second time in the school as an eighth grader for sign language concert.
“I didn’t explore much, but I remember running down the ramp that took you to the cafeteria since one side of the auditorium was there. The auditorium was nice though, in fact there was a balcony, which I went on during the sign language concert for the district,” he said. “I will tell you this though, that building needs to go.”
The school is scheduled to reopen in fall 2022. During the construction, Everett Meredith students, teachers and staff will be at Odessa High School at 570 Tony Marchio Drive, a Townsend address but just south of Odessa, where they will operate as a self-contained “school within a school,” public information officer Lilian Miles said.
Monthly construction updates will be given at Appoquinimink Board of Education meetings.