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Keeping Washington School alive

A variety of Washington School staff get together the last Friday of July each year for breakfast. (Brian Basham/DL Newspapers)1 / 2
Former Washington School teachers Dorothy Bratlie and Deb Pavelko talk before breakfast Friday morning. Bratlie taught at Washington School for 14 years from 1962 to 1976, and Pavelko taught there from 1976 until the school closed in 1997. (Brian Basham/DL Newspapers)2 / 2

Although no one seems to be quite sure how long they've been meeting, the staff from Washington School in Detroit Lakes enjoys the once-a-year breakfasts regardless.

Erma Hoseth, who retired in 1983 after teaching 12 years at Washington School and 15 years at Rossman School, said she thinks it started about 20 years ago.

"We used to have a Friday group and have coffee in the afternoon. Then we thought it would be nice to have breakfast with everyone," she said.

"They just set the last Friday of July as a time to have coffee," Roger Matz said.

Matz, who started teaching fourth grade and a couple years of Title 1 at Washington School in 1976, said, "I saw it in Happenings (in the newspaper) and thought, 'sounds interesting.'"

So he started attending the breakfasts and now helps organize and contact people about the yearly breakfast.

"Some teachers are still teachers, and I hope they will keep it going," he said.

Usually, about 20-30 people gather for the breakfast and sit and talk about what they've been up to the last year and memories of Washington.

This year, likely, even more memories will be shared now that part of Washington School has been torn down for a housing development going up on the site. Washington School closed in 1997.

Roger Lee, the former principal from 1977-1990, said he was out of town when the building was torn down, but he knew it was coming. He added that it wasn't being cared for and was only deteriorating anyway. With the nicer apartments across the street, if the new development can look as good "as the other side of the street can look, great."

In 1990, Roosevelt School opened and caused lots of changes within Washington School. Boundary lines changed for where kids would attend school, principals switched around, and teachers moved from Washington to Roosevelt and Rossman schools.

DeAnn Gottsman was one of those teachers that made the move. She student-taught at Washington School starting in 1969 and then taught from 1971-1997 when the school closed. From there, she moved to Rossman School. She taught a little bit of everything -- first, second and third grades, Title 1 and music.

Gottsman said she's attended almost every breakfast and enjoys talking to the various people.

"It's kind of like musical chairs," she said. "Many of the same ones come, but each year a few new ones come."

"It's kind of neat to get together and see each other," Matz agreed.

Lee said he comes each year because "these are my friends." He prefers to stand until he has to sit and eat though so he can talk with as many people as possible and not get "locked in" at a table. Everyone from custodians, teachers, principals and secretaries come for the breakfast.

Still debating how many years the breakfast has been going on, former principal Paul Ness suggests 15 years.

"What's the difference between 15 and 20 years," Hoseth said, as they both laugh.