39. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: the day the high school burned
It wasn't that well-regarded as high schools went. If you were a parent of a student who attended it, and you heard a steady steam of complaints about the school, about all you could tell your hormone-drenched, pimple-faced offspring was that you knew how bad things were at the school, and that there were far worse schools in the world -- in some places, there were no schools at all. And anyway, all schools have underappreciated teachers who wanted to connect with their students. "If you went to school every day and paid attention, you would connect well enough to make something of yourself. It's what you put in that counts," you would tell them, knowing that they didn't necessarily disagree, but wanted to live up to their reputations as teenage scoffers and care-nothings.
The old high school stood where the police station is now: across the street from the south side of the park. By the time anyone noticed the blaze, the school was pretty much a goner. None of the students who were interviewed by reporters seemed likely to miss the place. It was old, cramped, not aging well, with drafty windows and peeling paint along the walls in the halls, and with a pervasive odor of teenage sweat. This last point could be considered a normal attribute of most old schools, even ones with efficient cleaning personnel. One supposes that the absence of a sweaty smell would be replaced with the smell of Chlorox. That was not the case here. When budgets were tight (as they usually were), cleaning supplies were among the first items to be cut.
Fortunately, it was late June, so no students would have to miss any school. This fact was greeted with a collective shrug from both parents and students. Many students were busy with summer jobs, while others were busy perfecting their various techniques of nonchalance, loitering, plating computer or video games in cramped basements. A very few were overseas, enjoying what upscale grads of generations past would have called The Grand Tour. Crepuscular Meadows had some wealthy old families ("Old money," as the term was usually used), but old money usually paid for a better education that what the town's public schools could provide. There were maybe a handful of students whom even the prep schools wouldn't accept, and these were the ones who were now on the Grand Tour. If the writer is guessing correctly, these few had the least fondness for the old school of anyone in town.
Well, so be it. The writer was living in Nobility at the me of the fire, so he heard it on the evening news. There was a video clip of thick, black smoke billowing into the sky, with the backdrop of Chestnut Street as it began its steep descent into the valley of th Hoohaw River. Say what you will about the old school, its south side gave a wonderful view of the reservoir in the distance. The building had had some sort of ersatz steeple (a strange architectural frill that
the town father s of the early 20th century had considered de rigueur).
Few students ever climbed to the top of that "steeple." but the few who did were able to see, off to the West, Mount Hoohawsett, that strange mountain that looked like an upside-down bowl with a pimple on the top (if you saw the "pimple" up closer, you could see that it was a grand hotel or resort, hearkening back to earlier days when the well-off would take carriage rides to the top of the mountain for sightseeing). The only other place in the area with any kind of view of the mountain was Main Street in Nobility, at the point where it began its descent into the Hoohaw Valley.
Crepuscular Meadows was not endowed with many great natural features (the reservoir was a man-made artifact), nor did it have many superannuated trees (Clanville had the only very old tree in the area), a consequence of having been thickly settled from the mid-19th Century on. Having too many big trees around meant that you couldn't cram as many houses together.
Anyway, the old high school left a sizable gap in the package of services that the town was obliged to provide. It would take at least a year to build a new one, and the students had to study somewhere in the meantime. Most of Crepuscular Meadows' other schools were at or near capacity. What to do, what to do?
Ultimately, the town paid vouchers to other towns in the area so that Crepuscular meadows students could attend them. Fortunately, Hoohoba high school in Nobility has enough capacity to absorb about 40% of the student body, and the rest went to school in Marblerow, where students were used to having very little space anyway.
Once the rubble was, cleared away, the town lost no time in building a new police station on the site. The old police station, down behind High Street was also razed. It was there that new high school would be built.
Where did people go for police services in the meantime?
Well, there was vacant space in the mills nearby....