School’s out forever: Nashua’s Elm Street Middle School closing day

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The front entrance of the Elm Street Middle School in Nashua NH just before the final dismissal bell starting the beginning of summer and the final chapter of the storied school building. Photo/Dan Splaine Photography

NASHUA, NH – The final day of the school year is an annual rite of passage.  Students emptied locker contents into knapsacks and they sit impatiently staring at the wall clock anticipating the dismissal bell and the freedom of summer. At Elm Street Middle School this ritual has occurred every year for 85 years.

Today, students left for the last time, marking the end of the building’s service to the city of Nashua as a school. The 900-plus middle schoolers will be the last to attend classes in the building and an era in Nashua history comes to a close.

As expected after the final bell the school grounds rang out with shouts of joy, peals of laughter, and celebratory whoops. There were also many hugs, tears, and fist bumps.  Even though this scene has played out on this campus many times, today the Elm Street community is feeling this milestone intensely.

A scene that has occurred at the Elm Street Middle School for decades and now for the final time. Mike Bernard (left) and his wife Rene marking the occasion of their son Aiden Bernard’s (right) 8th grade graduation with a classic photo pose. Photo/Dan Splaine Photography

Eighth-grade graduate Aiden Bernard who will be attending Nashua North in the fall, interrupted his celebration with a moment of reflection, taking in the whole scene on the school’s front lawn.   “It’s surprising being here and knowing that you are the last people, the last class!”

The stout and classically designed building was a federally funded WPA project as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Tens of thousands and multiple generations of Nashua children have attended the school since its opening in 1938. It operated as Nashua Senior High School until 1975 then became a junior high and finally a middle school

Math Teacher Cathy Belanger was quite emotional about the last day of Elm Street noting with sadness her connection with the school. “I went to school here, I was in the second class that went through here as the Junior High and I have been here for 29  years teaching.” For her, the closing is a sad occasion.

“The building is amazing, the people … you just can’t replace the school, the set-up. But it was time, you know, the building is tired and the new building is amazing so it will be different but it will be nice.”

Math Teacher Cathy Belanger on the last day of Elm Street Middle School. She attended the school and has been a math teacher there for 29 years. Photo/Dan Splaine Photography

Dr. Katrina Esparza commenting on being the last principal in the building on the final day of the school said, “It’s an honor to be here, it’s a little overwhelming and I’m really excited for the staff and students so being new here I’m thrilled to be part of this community.”

Esparza will be moving to the new Brian McCarthy Middle School as the new school’s first principal. She said she would most miss the location of Elm Street. 

“The location in the center of the community and all the families who have attended here for generations make it special but we will build a new community at the new school and it will be wonderful, I love the building, and I think it is beautiful, I love the woodwork, I love walking through the halls but it is time for a new facility,” she said.

Dr. Katrina Esparza is the current principal of Elm Street Middle School and the future principal of the new Brian McCarthy Middle School opening in the fall of 2024. Photo/Dan Splaine Photography

Dan Splaine

DAN SPLAINE – Photographer/Contributor

Nashua native Dan Splaine is a commercial photographer who creates images for businesses. A strong belief in the value of local independent journalism, his Nashua roots, and his extensive background in photojournalism make contributing to the NASHUA INK LINK a natural choice. 

After working in dozens of countries and throughout the US on assignments Dan will happily go local and turn his lens to capture lives and living in the Gate City. You can see his work and learn about his photography services and workshops by going to his website.