Yancey County students, teachers say emotional farewell to smallest school in NC

The scene at Bee Log Elementary School on Friday, June 8, 2017. Bee Log, the smallest school in North Carolina, closed its doors for good this year. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

When it comes to the last day of school, Friday was a first at Bee Log Elementary. It closed after 82 years, a long run that gave the community a close connection to the school.

Bee Log had 42 K-5 students, making it the smallest school in the state.

Students said goodbye to the place where they learned to believe.

"If you believe it, you can achieve it!" said a group of students, repeating the school's mission statement.

"This is probably one of the saddest days of my life," said Teacher Missy Toomey, who felt like she lost a family member as the school closed. "We'll wave goodbye to the buses, we do every year, but this time it'll be the last time, and that's nuts. That's so sad!"

The students will move onto either Clearmont or Bald Creek and eventually attend the new Blue Ridge Elementary. The school board says closing Bee Log this year will save the district hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"So, it's quite a legacy that has been left," Principal Andrea Allen said. "But we're looking forward to greater things in the future. We're starting a new chapter. "

Allen held a brief assembly Friday morning, putting the end of an era in storybook form for the kids.

"One day a decision was made to close the little school. And soon gone would be the laughter, smiles, the stories that the little school had felt," she told them, stressing that in their hearts the school will never close.

Many former students and teachers were also on hand, wiping away tears.

The school was built in 1936 as part of a WPA project during the Roosevelt administration.

"Yes, all my family went to school here," said Allen, looking through a 1956 yearbook. "There's my mom in first grade."

Andrea's mother Sheila also grew up to be the Bee Log principal.

"They will remember it as home," Sheila said.

The rocks used to build the school were taken from local farms. Sheila's dad and grandfather were instrumental in hoisting one that has a bear-like shape.

"This is called the big bear," Ramsey said. "They put him up and decided he should be the mascot. So, thus came the Bee Log Bears."

Veterans retired the flag that's been a fixture for generations. The local Disabled American Veterans chapter set the tone at a somber ceremony including taps and a gun salute.

"I know Bee Log isn't closing. It'll always be in our hearts, but watching that flag come down for the last time," Toomey said, becoming emotional.

The sense of loss wasn't lost on first-grader Lexie McIntosh.

"It's sad because this school has been here for a very long time," she said.

Vets presented the flag to Principal Allen, who broke the silence.

"Don't worry about a thing," she assured the children. "And guys one more time, if you believe it you can achieve it!"

It's still uncertain if the Bee Log Elementary building will eventually have another use. On Friday, folks embraced each other and held onto a quote from Dr. Seuss on the sign outside the school.

"Don't cry because it's over," Seuss said. "Smile because it happened."

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