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A bittersweet morning at Wadena-Deer Creek Schools

Wadena-Deer Creek School will remember Nov. 15 as a day of cheers and tears.

At 8:30 a.m. on Monday, students, staff and the community members gathered at the northwest corner of the former high school site for an informal program to commemorate the start of the school's demolition. The school was destroyed by a tornado that hit Wadena on June 17. Groundbreaking on a new school is scheduled to begin April 2011.

Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom referred to the start of the demolition as a way to remember our past, but to now focus on the future of the school. School board member Peter Hayes echoed Dahlstrom's remarks, saying the school board is looking forward to when the new school opens on the same site fall 2012.

To WDC School District bookkeeper Joyce (Roggenkamp) Boyne, the school represented different phases throughout her lifetime. Boyne was a junior when the high school was built in 1965, graduating in 1967 with a class of 128 students.

"My junior and senior year, I had many good memories of this school," Boyne said. She and her husband, Bruce, raised two children who also graduated from Wadena. Another highlight for Boyne was after the November 2009 election, when the school referendum passed.

"I remember all of us in the District Office sharing a group hug," Boyne said. "We were so pleased it passed so we could continue providing our students with a quality education."

But perhaps the most profound memory for Boyne was on June 17, when she was in the school as the tornado hit. Boyne and custodian Terry Andrie moved from the District Office to an inner classroom to take shelter from the storm.

"By the grace of God, we were OK," Boyne said.

For WDC High School social studies teacher Brian Maki, watching the demolition of the high school gymnasium brought tears to his eyes.

"As the walls were coming down, I was thinking about all the good times I had in that school. I loved that school. It represented so much to me and to my colleagues and to our students," said Maki, who is in his 18th year at WDC. "A lot of wonderful memories I won't forget."

As the demolition crane tore at the walls of the gymnasium, students cheered at the incredible sight of the debris falling, resulting in a gaping hole and exposing the inside of the gymnasium that's been vacant for nearly five months. As the hole became larger, the "Home of the WOLVERINES" painted in bold blue and gold letters could be seen, perhaps a melancholy reminder that the gymnasium was once home to the school's sporting and school events.