The old ‘Greystone’ has served the Annville-Cleona school district well for many years. Now, following a bit of a scare, it appears the building will continue to do so well into the future.

Archival 1937 photo of the Greystone bearing the Harpel insignia.

Recently, the Annville elementary school, known to locals as the ‘Greystone’, was closed for two months for some emergency repairs. But through thorough inspections performed during the course of the repairs it was determined that the Annville elementary school building was structurally sound.

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It all started over Labor Day weekend when classes were not in session. During a routine check of fire extinguishers, maintenance workers at the school discovered the floor in the cafeteria had buckled upward because of settlement issues beneath the structure.

Read More: Annville Elementary closed for structural issue, elementary classes now held at high school on alternating days

Annville Elementary School, which was built in 1926 at 205 South White Oak Street, was closed on Sept. 7. But repairs, which weren’t as extensive as first believed, proceeded quickly and the building re-opened ahead of schedule on Nov. 9.

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Annville Elementary principal Ross Hopple and Annville-Cleona Superintendent Dr. Krista M. Antonis stop for a photo outside the ‘Greystone’ during a recent LebTown visit. (Jeff Falk)

“We feel very fortunate,” said Annville-Cleona superintendent Krista M. Antonis. “A lot of things came together. We wanted to make sure we were safe and everything we did was in the best interest of our students. Our teachers did a wonderful job, and our students and their families were flexible. With the current state of COVID-19 and then this on top of it, it was very stressful. But we made the best of it.”

Read More: New Annville-Cleona superintendent stepped into role mid-pandemic

During the repairs, Annville Elementary’s 450 students in grades third through sixth attended classes at the Annville-Cleona High-Middle School building, located at 500 South White Oak Street in Annville. Both the elementary and high-middle school students were taught through a hybrid model that includes in-person and virtual instruction.

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Annville and Cleona, which instructs students in grades K through second, comprise the two elementary schools in the Annville-Cleona school district.

“We had some settlement under the building,” said Antonis. “In the late 1980s, the cafeteria and kitchen were added to the building. The fill used was not properly used, it started to deteriorate and settle because the fill wasn’t clean. The cafeteria floor buckled.

“What we did was drill holes in the cement floor to see how deep the settlement was,” continued Antonis. “Some of the settlement was packed, some was not. We took up the tile, the kitchen floor and the cement slab, and replaced it with clean dirt.”

Antonis said that insurance covered most of the costs of repair, but that the school district was left with a bill of about $171,000.

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“We were very fortunate it wasn’t more costly,” said Antonis. “We did not know how long this would take. We exhausted all of our options before we made a final decision. We toured a few facilities, but we could not find a suitable facility (for elementary classes during the repairs). The goal was to get students back to school as soon as possible.

“We found out about it the day it happened,” added Antonis. “Fortunately, it was a day off for our students. A maintenance crew was performing general maintenance and saw the floor had buckled. We have no idea how long it was going on.”

For 30 years, from the time it was built until 1956, the 35-class room Greystone served as the high school in the Annville-Cleona school district. In the late 1950s, a new high school building was constructed at the site of the current high-middle school at 500 South White Oak Street and the Greystone became Annville elementary.

In 2006, the current Annville-Cleona High-Middle School was built.

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“It’s a solid stone construction. It’s built to last,” said Antonis of the Annville elementary building. “It is in very good shape. It’s an older building, but the school district has done a great job with up keeping it. There is no need to look for an additional building at this time. It’s a solid construction.”

Watercolor of the ‘Greystone’ by painter Bruce Johnson.

Due to the sheer numbers of residents that have passed through its doors over the years, the Greystone has become somewhat of a landmark in Annville. Initially, some members of the Annville community expressed concerns that the elementary building’s settlement issues were possibly being caused by a sinkhole.

“In the year 2020, everyone has been wonderful,” said Antonis. “The settlement at Annville elementary was no one’s fault. Fortunately, no students were there at the time and no one was hurt.

Mrs. Kim Wilson’s fourth-grade class at Annville Elementary – a.k.a. the ‘Greystone.’ (Jeff Falk)

“I’m very appreciative of the community and how they handled the situation,” Antonis added. “With the pandemic and everyone already being stressed, we had to let people know we were closing Annville elementary. We definitely did everything we could as an administration. We gave our students the best educational opportunities in that situation.”

That collective sigh of relief that you’re currently feeling comes from the knowledge that the Greystone is alive and well.

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