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Bell rings once again at Horace Mann

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CROWD: Horace Mann teachers stand around the ribbon, ready to cut it and start the school year.
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BELL: Principal Mark Dubois and Russell “Buzz” Buzzard pose for pictures by the bell.
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RING: Russell “Buzz” Buzzard rings the bell, symbolizing Horace Mann’s reopening.

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@h-ponline.com

The sound of a bell ringing echoed through the air at Horace Mann Elementary yesterday afternoon, signalling the official reopening of the school that closed in 2011.

Russell “Buzz” Buzzard had the honor of ringing the bell, just as he did in 2011 to signify the closing of the school – and just as he did when he was a custodian at the prior location of Horace Mann on Williams Street to signify the beginning of school and lunch periods.

Prior to the bell ringing, Principal Mark DuBois thanked family, past and present teachers, staff and students, for their hard work in getting the school ready to go for students’ arrival on Wednesday.

“I wish I would’ve taken before and after pictures because if you would’ve looked at this June 25 you would’ve said ‘No way. There’s no way.’ But when you walk in there today, you’re like ‘this is a school!’ ... I’m honestly speechless when I look at that,” he said.

Following his words, Mayor Brooks Fetters also thanked those who helped with the reopening and said he’s proud of the Huntington County Community School Corporation.

After the bell ringing, teachers and staff members who will be kicking off Horace Mann’s reopening year stood around a ribbon and cut it, taking pieces of it to remember that morning.

Buzzard, who was a custodian at both locations of Horace Mann for a combined total of 40 years, was happy to be in attendance.

“It’s good. When you’re 90 years old you’re happy that you’re able to take part in such a situation. It’s a beautiful building. I hope they enjoy it as much as I do,” he said.

Others in attendance were happy to see Buzzard at the reopening ceremony as well.

Cathalene Smith, a fifth grade teacher at Horace Mann, taught at the elementary school for 25 years before it closed and she moved to Lancaster. Now, she gets to make her return.

“It was very emotional just to have Buzz back to do that because we had a big celebration when it closed, and he was here for all of that,” she said. “I had a great 8 years at Lancaster ... but it’s great to come back and kind of start over and probably will end my career here where I started so that’s kind of cool.”

Diana Farthing and Deb Schwartz were both teachers at Horace Mann until it closed, and they had to move on as well. Schwartz even attended the former Horace Mann building as a student while Buzzard was the custodian.

Now the two have since retired, Farthing working part-time at Huntington Catholic and Schwartz subbing for HCCSC.

“... this is a legacy. Our community just needs to have a Horace Mann because that’s been part of the original history of this town. That’s the original bell that was in the tower at the old Horace Mann,” Schwartz said.

Farthing went on to try to think of a word that best describes the feeling of being back yesterday for the reopening, but there simply wasn’t a word to describe it. They said being there for the ceremony felt like coming home.

There was a lot that went into getting the school to where it is now, though. Dubois said they have had to start at level zero and figure out everything from how kids are going to enter school, how to set up parking, how to do bussing, how to organize breakfast and lunch – the list goes on.

Even getting everything moved into the building was a process. Dubois said the school was filled with palettes of textbooks and classroom tools, not to mention all of the desks and chairs.

When it comes to the upcoming school year though, DuBois said he really wants the teachers and staff to focus on how to best love the community of their school.

“I talked to our staff today, and I read from 1 Corinthians 13 about love,” he said. “And that’s what we have to do – before anything else. There’s so much pressure on schools and expectations, but ultimately, all that stuff needs to be pushed aside. We have to love our kids first, and we have to love each other. We have to love our families. That’s how we’re going to start here.”