GREEN – The abandoned Kleckner Elementary School, built in 1927 as Greenburg High, still stands.
But everything, including asbestos and furnishings are gone, along with of the senior class photos that had been displayed there.
Gone, that is, but not forgotten or lost.
Those framed class photos have been preserved and are now on display in what is known as the “Senior Commons” at the far end of the student commons at the current Green High School.
Included in the display is a tribute to Kleckner Elementary and 40-year teacher John Kleckner for whom the school was named after when he retired.
The display includes the school’s name, which was saved when the school was closed in 2011 and students were shifted to the Primary and Intermediate schools.
On Thursday, Superintendent Michael Nutter , Green High School Principal Cindy Brown and Green resident Al Courtney, opened the “Senior Commons” to media members now that the project is completed in time for the Green Schools alumni dinner slated for June 1 in the Green High School commons.
“Al and I talked, and he hunted down the photos to dedicate this as the senior commons to John Kleckner Elementary and Greensburg High, and to let people know what happened to the class photos when Kleckner was closed,” Nutter said.
He said Kleckner is still owned by the school district and is slated for demolition when budgeting allows.
“We have photos from the old Greensburg High and the others are in what is now the intermediate School,” Courtney explained, which was the high school from 1956 through 1996. Green High was opened in 1997.
The class photos from when the Intermediate School was the high school will remain there, while the photos of graduates since the current high school was built remain in the school’s regular commons area, Brown stated.
Courtney said the photos, on display since last summer, begin with the Class of 1933 and go through 1956. There are no known class pictures from 1927 [when Greensburg High was built] through 1932 “because there were no formal pictures made at that time,” Courtney added.
A resident of the community for 77 years and now 82, Courtney said the structure became Greensburg Elementary through 1981. When John Kleckner retired, they renamed it in his honor and it became totally an elementary at that time.
Twelve years after the high school was built, the left side of the current building was added in 1939 and the right side was erected in 1946 after Greensburg Elementary – on the same campus as the high school but never attached – was destroyed by fire.
The three project principals agreed, “We wanted to put [this] somewhere that people could see it, pay tribute to it and honor it. It was a logical choice to put it here,” the outgoing superintendent said.
“I just finished this project here,” Courtney said, referring to finishing the hanging of the pictures and lettering with the help of several others. “With Mike’s blessings, I searched and did my audit to find where all these pictures were because they were in various locations. Once I found all of them, then we came up with this idea of putting them here.”
A graduate of the 53-member class of 1949, Courtney said Nutter told him that once Kleckner closed the photos were taken down and stored.
“The pictures were one of the first things we took,” Nutter explained. “We wrapped them up and stored them, with most going to the Central Administration Building in the basement.”
Courtney added, “People had been wondering where the pictures went, and there were other people trying to get their hands on them. That’s why Mike and I started the project.”
“I certainly have the most sentimentality for that building [Greensburg High/Kleckner] because I spent 12 years in this system.”
One of Courtney’s most memorable highlights was when Greensburg Elementary burned down. “I happened to be in the building at the time it caught fire,” Courtney said. He, along with some others, were carrying items to the elementary to store in the basement of the building.
“On the next trip, we saw smoke in that area,” Courtney said. “I have some personal suspicions, but I won’t share them with you. When it started, it went; it went fast,” he declared before praising the teachers “for doing an excellent job” getting the students out of the brick structure.
Originally a student at East Liberty Elementary, Courtney and classmates were moved to Greensburg High in the eighth grade in 1944 to make room for younger students at crowded East Liberty.
“Our primary interest at this moment is to pay tribute to that building and what it meant to the community and the school system. and, of course, to John Kleckner,” Courtney said. He called the project primarily a tribute to the school. The photos are secondary.