Most people agree that had a similar catastrophe befallen any of
the District’s schools, the community would have stepped up to help.
Still, Fernway seems to have a special place in the City’s heart. After
the school burned, Hayward began receiving emails and letters from
students and families from around the world, including exchange
students who had attended the school. Fernway alums living in
Manhattan got together to drown their sorrows and reminisce about
their shared experiences.
Board of Education vice president Ayesha Bell Hardaway’s two
children went through Fernway. As a young mother, she sold milk at the
school during lunch time, and her former husband was a third-grade
teacher there. Like many residents, Fernway is integral to her
“The Fernway family helped raise my family,” she says. “I know what
it’s like to have a building as a means of connecting. Fernway has been a
source of hope for so many in our community.”
When Rebecca Bernard’s children were babies, they played at the
Fernway playground. Like others, she watched in horror as the school
burned. “I thought, ‘This is really bad. They are either going to have to
tear it down, or we will have to fight to have it rebuilt.’ ”
Bernard, whose child is entering the fourth grade this year, became
committed to saving Fernway. She learned that with the District’s
declining enrollment, the school had been on the chopping block before.
It was small, critics said. There was no parking. It lacked some of the
amenities of other schools. “That was a very big concern,” she says.
Bernard attended every community meeting, every parent meeting,
and every school board meeting, sitting for hours and taking notes. After
a while, it became clear the District planned to save – and improve – the
“I’m glad the District and the board looked at this as an
opportunity,” she says.
A New Chapter Begins
Local realtors share Bernard’s view. Veteran realtors Jim and Cathy
LeSueur say the real estate market in Fernway serves as a barometer for
the health of the market in Shaker. And having a school within walking
distance of homes is a crucial selling point, as it is for all of Shaker. In
that sense, eliminating the school would have been catastrophic for the
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