Bijou, BV say good-bye to their old sites

       Two Westside District 11 schools - Buena Vista and Bijou - said good-byes to the sites they're leaving in separate ceremonies May 22.

With the ancient building that they'll be leaving behind in the background. staffers from the Bijou School (alternative high school) pose for a picture during their farewell luau May 22. Kneeling in the foreground is Principal Wayne Hutchison. The school will relocate to the Whittier school building for the 2009-10 year.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The Bijou event followed the alternative high school's tradition of twice-yearly lunchtime barbecue “luaus,” with staffers dressing up in Hawaiian garb and offering burgers, hotdogs and potluck food. At Buena Vista, an early-evening affair in the gym presented live music by Heidi Cooper and Benjamin Pratt, a photo-highlights presentation from the school year, a reprise appearance by 1929 alumnus Anne Tilton Newport (who had spoken to students a few weeks earlier) and plenty of chances for food and conversation.
       Bijou will be relocating to the Whittier School, where it will take on the formal name of the Bijou School at Whittier. D-11 has closed Whittier itself, an elementary school that had taught students in the building since 1901.
       Buena Vista's school population is splitting up, with the Montessori element slated to reopen in August (keeping its Buena Vista name) as a non-attendance area “magnet” at the former Washington Elementary and with the non-Montessori students to go to the new Westside Elementary inside the West Middle School building. The Buena Vista site itself is to transform into the West Intergenerational Center, as of June 1.
       There was considerably more regret at Buena Vista, several of whose parents and staff had argued against the plan when the Board of Education began considering it last winter.
       “This is a sad day,” said Marilyn George, who taught at Buena Vista for 15 years before retiring three years ago.
       Bijou people, on the other hand, have been dealing for years with an aging facility and long-obsolete portable buildings. “It's been a good run, but I'm ready for the new digs,” commented Carol Parks, Bijou's literary resource teacher.
       Looking ahead, Principal Wayne Hutchison said in comments to luau attendees that the school will have its next such festivity at Whittier in October, with the neighborhood invited. He elaborated afterward that he also plans an earlier event, a community open house the second week in September, “so people don't wonder who we are.”
       District 11 has no plan at present to refurbish or reuse the old Bijou site. One possibility, according to Frank Bernhard, the district's head of Facilities, is to sell the property to a developer, but that is all speculation at present.
       J.J. Stevens, father of a Buena Vista third-grader, said he expects to keep his child in the Montessori program at Washington. But he's disappointed geographically, considering that the family lives only two blocks from the Buena Vista campus. “Now our ideas of the neighborhood are going to enlarge,” Stevens said.
       Kacey Ross, who has students going into first, second and third grades, has a similar situation. The Washington site is “two times as far away,” requiring her to drive her kids. However, “I like the whole program and the people. It's worth not being able to walk,” she said.

Westside Pioneer article