Community bids farewell to School 16

Students, alumni recall times as building to be replaced

ANNE MILLER Staff Writer
Section: Capital Region,  Page: D1

Date: Sunday, June 5, 2005

ALBANY - "Welcome to School 16. This is our farewell."

Carolyn Keefe gestured into a classroom empty of people but full of memories and black-and-white photographs. For 99 years, the red brick school has served the children of Pine Hills and the surrounding neighborhoods, but the building will not open for the fall term. By the end of September, the antiquated building will have been demolished to make room for a modern school. The students range from prekindergarten to sixth grade.

On Saturday, the doors of School 16 were flung open for the community to say a final so-long to the place where thousands learned. Some who loved the architecture were sad to see it go. Most felt the time had come for the structure, which was outdated since they attended - whether that was in the 1950s or 1970s or now. All shared fond memories, which seemed to reiterate one common theme: that the most important part of the school, the community, will remain intact.

"I remember being in the gym and climbing the rope one day - that was a real accomplishment," said Alice Kneil Hotchkiss, 78. She attended School 16 from 1934 to 1940 and brought some of her class photographs to show today's teachers.

The climbing ropes still hang from the gym ceiling. Other parts of the old three-story build ing aren't so welcome. The only bathrooms are on the bottom floor. The radiators are too hot to touch in the winter, and there is no air conditioning for the warmer months. The "good" playground has room for only three classes at a time, two students said.

"The sad thing is that they're taking it down," said sixth-grader Ryan Deitz, 12.

"The happy thing is that it's going to be better for the other kids," said fifth-grader Krishona Brown, 11. In a classroom that faces North Allen Street, two sisters and their mother disagreed about the school's future.

"I think it's great," said Barbara Engel, 44. "I like to see the public school system strengthened."

Her sister, Ileen McFerran, 51, who lives across the street, did not think it was so great.

"No matter how well they build the new school, it will not be the same," she said, listing the architectural touches that were common then, but pricey now, such as granite floors and solid brick walls.

The new school will have 55,000 square feet and open in January 2007. The project, according to the district Web site, will cost almost $11 million, part of a $184,240,000 districtwide construction program. A list of new amenities planned for School 16 can be seen at

Until the replacement school opens, the students will attend classes at the old Albany High School/Philip Schuyler Elementary School building.

At the brand new School 16, the students in one side of the building will no longer have to go downstairs and outside to get to the other side. Custodians will no longer have to constantly set up and take down tables and chairs because the gymnasium will no longer also serve as the cafeteria and auditorium. Wires from computers will no longer snake around the rooms.

"I think I'm going to like it when it's bigger," said 8-year-old Katley Vanantwerp.

Anne Miller can be reached at 454-5697 or by e-mail at