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The North Bend Eagle

Nine former Prague students now attend NBC high school. And here they are in a picture.
Former Prague students now attending NBC are Tanner Wesely (a junior), Alex Muessigman (so), Rosemary Hinojosa (sr), Broc Vyhlidal (jr), Zana Rhynalds (so), Adam Vyhlidal (fr), C.J. Hinojosa, and Clayton Muessigman (7th). Not pictured is Tiffany Wesely (fr).

Former Prague students make transition to NBC

by Nathan Arneal
Published 12/8/10

It’s a scene repeated every spring in high schools across the nation. Seniors wiping away tears and hugging as they say goodbye to classmates they have known their entire conscious lives.

Yearbooks are signed. Promises to keep in touch are made. Memories and inside jokes are laughed at one more time.

Now imagine that scene multiplied by six. Last spring, an entire student body — not just one class — said goodbye to Prague High School as it closed its doors for good.

“We were all hugging and crying because it was so sad,” said Zana Rhynalds, a Prague freshman last year.

While the majority of the former Prague students made their way to East Butler after the two districts merged, 13 former Panthers landed at North Bend Central.

While the final decision to close Prague came about rather abruptly last spring — the original plan called for PHS to stay open one more year — students said they had been reading the writing on the wall for years.

“A year or two before the school closed down, we always talked about where we would go,” said Rhynalds, now a sophomore at NBC.

In November 2009, Prague and North Bend formally agreed to co-op football for the 2010 season, so before they knew their school would be closing, Prague students knew they would be losing their own football team. NBC sophomore Alex Muessigmann got to play just one season for Prague.

“The most emotional day for me was our very last home Prague football game, because we had already decided to co-op football with North Bend,” Muessigmann said. “It was the last game we were ever going to play on that field. That was a real kicker for me right there.”

Of the eight former Prague students now attending North Bend interviewed, all said they would have preferred to stay at Prague for one more year had the school stayed open. But as the 2009-2010 school year wore on, that possibility looked more and more unlikely.

“Towards the last month or two before the school board decided to close the doors, that’s when people started saying where they would go and when they would go,” Muessigmann said. “That’s when we became divided between East Butler and Prague.”

For the students who ended up in North Bend, the overriding reason for their choice of schools was proximity. All said North Bend was closer to home than East Butler. Several of their parents work in the North Bend or Fremont area.

Nine former Prague students attend NBC junior-senior high school, while North Bend elementary received four former Prague patrons, including two kindergartners.

Several of the high school students played junior high sports at NBC, which made the transition to a full-time North Bend student easier. NBC and Prague had been co-oping junior high football, volleyball and track before the merger. Still, going to a new school wasn’t easy.

“I was really scared to go to a new school because I wasn’t going to be with most of my friends,” Rhynalds said. “I only had a couple friends come to North Bend with me. I had been with most of my class since kindergarten. It was nerve wracking to go to a new school.”

Sophomore Broc Vyhlidal agreed.

“It was really hard,” he said. “There were people you see everyday in the halls (at Prague), then you come here the next year and you see new faces and you wonder if you’re going to fit in.”

Rosemary and C.J. Hinojosa came to North Bend for their senior year. While switching to a new school for their last year of high school was frustrating, it also provided a fresh start.

“We all had our positions in Prague,” Rosemary Hinojosa said. “Everybody knew each other as the class clown, the little sad kid who sat in the corner, or whatever. Here you got to start new and could set yourself up for your own image.”

The adjustment to a new school continues as the first semester in North Bend nears an end. Some of the transfer students said they appreciated the broader range of class offerings at North Bend. A couple said they enjoyed NBC’s lack of stairs compared to the three-story school building in Prague.

There still a sense of camaraderie among the “Prague kids,” a sense of history that isn’t there with their newer classmates. Several of the underclassmen said they plan to order class rings with North Bend engraved on one side and Prague on the other to help remember their shared heritage.

“It’s different,” Vyhlidal said. “I see Alex (Muessigmann) every day in his orange (NBC football) jacket, and I used to see him in blue. I’m so used to being around 100-some people, now I’m around 400. It’s a major difference.”

To a person, everyone interviewed said the North Bend community has been very welcoming.

“These people have accepted all of us,” Vyhlidal said. “The teachers are nice. Friends are nice. Everyone is just amazing here.”

With the Internet and Facebook, keeping up with old friends from Prague is not difficult. During the North Bend football team’s bye week, some of the Panther-turned-Tiger players went to watch their former teammates play for East Butler.

While the kids seem to be getting along great, the students admitted that there are some hard feelings lingering among some of the adults in Prague over the way the school closed. Vyhlidal said the Prague community definitely misses the school.

“All the old people miss seeing the young kid’s faces every day, seeing them walking the streets,” he said. “They miss those kids.”

Like many of the adults in Prague, the students wonder what the future holds with for the town of 346.

“Now that the school’s basically gone, where’s the town going to go now?” asked Rosemary Hinojosa. “There’s a couple of businesses here and there. But other than that, what’s the reason to go live there? You can’t put your kids in school. Eventually over time, I’m afraid the town is just going to fall.”

Those are questions time will answer. For now, the former Prague students will continue to assimilate into their new school while keeping fond memories of their old school.

“Each day I’m adjusting more and more and getting used to everything,” Rhynalds said, “but I still think about Prague and how it’s so much different here.”

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