Children at Walnut Square Elementary School got to take home a piece of their school this year — literally.
The slate tile roof that protected generations of children in the building from the elements was being replaced this summer, and when a parent volunteer saw what was happening, he had an idea.
“We saved 150 pieces of slate because workers were hauling them away,” said first-grade teacher Judy Reilly. “Our art teacher, Gayle Teichman, washed all of the slates and prepared them for children to paint as Christmas presents for their parents.”
It was the kind of one-time offer the nearly 150 students in kindergarten through grade two couldn’t refuse. All they had to do was a little painting with a brush and they had the perfect gift to give.
“My mom told me they came from the roof,” second-grader Braedon Smith said. “I painted a snowy owl on mine.’’
Braedon was talking about a rectangular piece of slate that was part of his school’s roof until this summer, when the 1898 building got a new roof. Reilly said parent volunteer Larry Trevette watched the tiles being removed and suggested the school salvage some of them for use in a classroom art project. Trevette approached Reilly with his idea and, after obtaining permission from School Superintendent James Scully, he gathered up 150 tiles with help from school custodian David Sargent.
As the holiday season approached, Teichman surprised children in her art classes with the tiles. She gave them several choices of images to paint on one side of the gray slate pieces, including snowy owls, snowmen and penguins.
“She told us to be careful not to drop it,’’ Braedon said. “t was very fragile and it could break.’’
Children used an acrylic paint to create their winter scenes and then added their names and the year on the back as a lasting memento of their time at the school.