Thursday afternoon was bittersweet for Margo Street-Robinson, who cut her teeth as a teacher at Dr. Charles E. Gavin School in Chicago Heights.
District 170's decision to close the school three years ago was met with discontent, and Heights residents weren't any happier to hear the school would be torn down in 2012. Supt. Thomas Amadio explained the decision to demolish as primarily a cost issue.
“That building, it would be millions and millions of dollars to get it back up to code,” Amadio said. “It would cost more to restore it than to get a brand new school.”
Regardless of the logic behind the decision, many were hurt when the Heights lost such a historically important school. Street-Robinson was particularly pained by the loss, as she spent her entire teaching career at Gavin School, taking over as principal from 1992 to 2006.
"Of course you know we were sad," Street-Robinson said. "We didn't want to see our school go. If you ask the teachers that taught there and stayed, it was a unique place. It meant sometimes you had to stop teaching to rock a child. It meant more than just teaching math, science, social studies. It meant loving somebody from the heart."
With Gavin School gone, the District 170 Board of Education knew it had to do something to honor the Gavin family, according to Board President Sam Costello.
"We promised, at the time we decided Gavin had to come down, that in no way was that a reflection on the Gavin name and family," said Costello. "We wanted to keep that tradition alive. We decided to pick Lincoln School to follow it up."
The decision to add "Gavin" to Lincoln School's name was based partly on proximity, according to Amadio and Board Vice President Jim Cordes. Of the District 170 schools, Lincoln is the closest to where Gavin was, and many students from Gavin ended up going there after the closure.
"It's still close to the neighborhood of Gavin," Cordes said. "It's close to where the kids live. There was room for the kids and there was enough space to have them over here."
Thursday afternoon District 170 held a ceremony officially revealing the new name, "Lincoln-Gavin School." Charles E. Gavin's daughter, Yvonne Robinson, who approved of the renaming, thanked the district in front of a large crowd of parents, students and Heights notables, including State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, former mayor Angelo Ciambrone and retired Chicago Bulls player Craig Hodges.
Street-Robinson reluctantly stepped to the podium as well, speaking to the crowd about the importance of Gavin School and why it has a special place in her heart.
Loss and Return
After the dedication, Street-Robinson put into perspective how she feels about the loss and return of Gavin.
"Change is hard," Street-Robinson said. "What I really thought about, driving here, it was like when the family talks about your grandmother and auntie and they're all dead but you have all these memories. That's what I feel about Gavin this morning. Gavin, the building, is gone. There's nothing there but the memories."
Despite the heartache she felt Thursday, the retired educator and longtime District 170 employee said she is glad to see Gavin School kept alive in some way.
"I'm proud that my children from the Gavin area will still be close to home and will still be in the community that they can feel is theirs," Street-Robinson said. "The east side is a special place."