Central Elementary School in Waynesville is the oldest school still in operation in the Haywood County School District. Built in the 1950s, it has served generations of residents who have found joy at the school on the corner.

On Feb. 16, 2016, amid cries of protest, the Haywood County School Board voted to close the school.

Students, teachers and staff celebrated the end of an era earlier this month with activities, food, and celebrations of achievement, all with a bittersweet undertone that it was the last time their “Central family” would all be under one roof.

For the 2016-17 school year, students will be split between Hazelwood and Junaluska elementaries, while teachers and staff all received offers throughout the district.

Budget cuts and declining enrollment brought on the need to close the school, district spokesperson Bill Nolte said, a trend that extends to other districts in North Carolina. The last time Haywood County closed a school was in the early 1990s when they consolidated Fines Creek and Crabtree into Riverbend Elementary.

The Asheville Citizen-Times sought to document the closing and tell the story of the school that touched so many.

Fourth grade teacher Darsey Fox hugs her teaching assistant Grey Ross as the last of students leave Central Elementary School for the last time on Monday, June 13, 2016.
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To view the mini-documentary and see the complete online package please visit: 

http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/2016/06/25/special-report-closing-mountain-elementary-school/86249060/

Students eat their lunch picnic-style on the sidewalk outside of Central Elementary School on Monday, June 13, 2016, the last day of the school.
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The kindergarten graduating class of 2016 takes the stage at Central Elementary School for a commencement ceremony, the last the school will see after closing, on Thursday, June 9, 2016. The students will be split between Junaluska and Hazelwood Elementar
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Central Elementary School kindergarten students attack principal Jeanann Yates with hugs as she delivers yearbooks to their classroom on Tuesday, June 7, 2016. "We just decided that it's all about our kids and finishing the year strong for them and giving
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A note made by a student hangs on the door to third grade teacher Brooke Nickol's room on Monday, May 2, 2016.
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Central Elementary School second grade student Walker Morris, 8, plays on the monkey bars on the playground during the school's after-school care program on Friday, June 3, 2016.
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Central Elementary School principal Jeanann Yates splashes water on waiting students including fifth grade student Janiah West, 11, from the dunking booth during a special water day at the school on Thursday, June 9, 2016.  "You could go anywhere in this
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Emily Putnam, 9, helps her teacher, Brooke Nickol, clean up her classroom on the last day of Central Elementary School on Monday, June 13, 2016. "If it was a place I hated to come everyday I wouldn't feel so bad, but that's not my feeling at all" Nickol s
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Central Elementary School teacher Randi Boone marks a box of her teaching materials with the tag "Hazelwood" the school she will be teaching at next year after the school closes for good on Monday, June 13, 2016.
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Central Elementary School fifth-grader Jacob Rhinehart, 11, points to a photo of himself when he was 5 that he took down from the wall of the cafeteria of the school after his fifth grade graduation ceremony on Friday, June 10, 2016. Principal Jeanann Yat
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Angelina Gayosso-Hensley waves to teachers as her bus pulls away from Central Elementary School for the last time on Monday, June 13, 2016.
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Teachers show their emotion as they wait for students to be picked up on the last day of Central Elementary School on Monday, June 13, 2016.
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Brooke Yarborough hugs Alyssa Yarborough, as students load buses on the last day of Central Elementary School on Monday, June 13, 2016.
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