As districts and schools around North Texas scramble to figure out how they’ll reopen next month, the Merrywood School in Duncanville is announcing it will permanently close its doors.
Owner Colleen FitzGerald called it a difficult decision, saying they’d hoped things would return to normal sooner than it appears that they will.
“When you can’t keep your children safe and your faculty safe, the possibility of something happening, you have to make the decision that’s best for them in the long run,” said Fitzgerald.
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The school, opened by FitzGerald’s mother Peggy Ogden and her aunt, back in 1961 has always prided itself on providing a traditional education.
“We are very much old school. We are textbook. We are pen and paper. We do not use electronics. We do not use technology,” said FitzGerald.
It’s one of the reasons she said parents choose the private pre-K through 6th grade school, but it’s also made it difficult to survive in a world where distance learning has become key.
And if they were to return in person in the fall, she said current CDC guidelines would be nearly impossible to implement among their youngest students.
“Just being able to send children to the restroom and it not be one at a time, hallways having to be one way, you can’t do that effectively with children this age. And many of our children are very young, so hugging their friends is just a normal thing,” said Fitzgerald.
The end of Merrywood will also mean the end of its founder’s long teaching career.
Fitzgerald said at 94 years old, her mother was still in the classroom up until spring break when they took what they hoped would be a temporary break to allow COVID-19 cases to decline.
After opening the school for fun 59 years ago, Ogden made it her livelihood two years later when her husband died.
Through her tenure, she oversaw the move to a second location and the addition of several grades.
Many of her teachers remained with her for decades.
“She made a very, very decided covenant that she’d always do her best with Merrywood if it could be successful. And she’s upheld that,” said FitzGerald.
FitzGerald said her mother’s at peace with the decision to step away as the education field she devoted her life finds footing in its next chapter.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.