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Felten grads say goodbye

5/18/2012

By RANDY GONZALES

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Thursday night's eighth-grade recognition night was all about the graduates and not about it being the eve of the last day of Felten Middle School.

Felten Principal Craig Pallister handed out 142 certificates at the graduation ceremony before a packed house at Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.

The class of 2012 was Felten's latest -- and last. With the closing of Kennedy Middle School this year, those students will be in the Felten building in the fall at the renamed Hays Middle School.

"It's always in the back of the mind all year, but tonight we're probably not thinking much about (no longer being Felten) because this is (the eighth-graders') night," Pallister said. "They're moving on to the high school next year. I don't think there probably will be a lot of thought on school as being different next year, because they're thinking about their lives, their next chapter.

"We didn't talk a lot about this being the last year for Felten because we wanted these guys to have their special moment, and their special year. They're not carrying around the last 25 years of history with them."

Shauna (Barton) Zweifel, class of 1993 at Felten, now teaches seventh-grade math and yearbook at the school.

"As an adult, it seems the building is very manageable," Zweifel said. "But I remember being a student and thinking it's huge, thinking, 'Oh my gosh, this building is humongous. I don't know how I'm going to get around.' "

After today, it's Felten Middle School no more.

"It's a little bit sad to think that's the end, but also we're excited because we're going to have more students, more teachers, and I think that will be very nice to have everybody in one building," Zweifel said.

"I think we're really looking forward to getting to know all the new students and getting to work with other teachers from other buildings," Zweifel said.

Pallister understands the newly-named school will take some getting used to, but he also looks at the new opportunities.

"I think for the community it's been a big change," he said. "For myself, right in the middle of it, I look at it as opportunities."

For example, Pallister said in the fall they will have bigger seventh- and eighth-grade bands, and he also had a proposal brought to him this week about adding cross country.

"We're kind of keying on opportunities," Pallister said.

Pallister has been at Felten for 19 years, the first four as the assistant principal before becoming principal.

"My biggest thing, that I reflect back, a lot of times you hear things about kids that they're not like they used to be," he said. "Our kids, I think, behave better than they did 20 years ago.

"Academically, I know they're way ahead of 20 years ago."

After Thursday night's recognition ceremony, there were proud parents taking pictures of the last Felten graduating class.

Today, it's putting the bow on another school year, the last school year for Felten, which got its name starting with the 1981-82 school year.

"We will have one more day of remembering and having fun," Pallister said. "One more day of Felten; one more day of Kennedy."

The Felten Middle School signs were due to come down today, and new Hays Middle School signs are due to be put up next week.

The bell closing the final chapter of Felten was to ring at 11:20 this morning.

"At 11:21 I'm going to be thinking of Hays Middle School," Pallister said.

* * *

Felten Middle School was built in 1964 and named Hays Junior High, the home of students in seventh, eighth and ninth grades attending public school in Hays.

Hays High School -- located at 323 W. 12th, which now houses Rockwell Administration Center -- was overflowing with students in grades 10 through 12.

When the new Hays High building was completed on East 13th Street in 1981, the Hays school district went with the middle school concept that groups together sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.

So the ninth-graders moved to Hays High, and Hays Junior High was renamed Felten Middle School in honor of Pete Felten Sr., the former mayor of Hays who was instrumental with the development of downtown Hays.