Published March 15. 2013 3:00PM Updated March 16. 2013 12:07AM
New London — They came in droves and left with arms filled, car trunks stuffed and truck beds piled high.
Teaching professionals, and later the general public, were invited into St. Mary Star of the Sea School Friday for the sale of desks and chairs, bookcases and bulletin boards, beakers and microscopes, to help clean out the 115-year-old school that shut its doors last spring.
“It is sad,’’ said Samantha Batch of Waterford, who taught for seven years at the school, which her brother and sister attended as children. “I did sneak away to see my old classroom.’’
She stood in the second-floor library, holding a book she found written by first-graders in Kennett, Mo., about the day after Sept. 11, 2001. She ran into another former teacher, Dominica Alicea of New London, who now works part-time at Jennings School.
“This is like my home,’’ Alicea said.
Batch said teachers were notified just 12 days before the school closed for good.
“We were flabbergasted,’’ she said.
The Diocese of Norwich announced the closure in May, citing financial problems. The school had 115 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
But Batch, who came to buy a desk for her newborn son, was happy Friday to wander the halls looking for bargains on books and school supplies that she intends to share with relatives who also are teachers.
“We used to support the school in so many ways,’’ said Batch’s mother, Ann Sullivan of Groton, who was stacking items on top of a desk.
Inside the front door of the school, Alice Schroeder sat behind a metal desk that was marked for the sale, accepting cash and checks.
She and her husband, David, and fellow parishioners of St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, Peggy Warnton and Victor Abreu, organized the two-day sale.
“The school closed and we all thought, ‘What are we going to do?’” Schroeder said. “We went through a mourning period and then we decided the best thing we could do was clean out the school and get it ready for another use.’’
The volunteers went through years paperwork, keeping some but shredding enough documents to fill 41 construction-size plastic bags.
By 1 p.m. Friday, when the public was invited in, a steady stream of people picked books, science supplies, computer monitors and keyboards.
Claire Szeker of New London, who works for a Joshua Center program, found a dozen books and a metal filing case, spending about $30.
“It’s better than buying them at a bookstore or Office Depot,’’ she said.
The school nurse at New London’s Regional Multicultural Magnet School found a physician’s scale for $25 and a bulletin board for her office.
Rebekah Kepple of Stonington paid $200 for a soapstone lab table, which she intends to turn into a kitchen table.
A man who did not want to give his name said he came to the sale “mostly to be nosy.’’ But he left with a globe, a paperback edition of “Huckleberry Finn” and a statue of Mary.
By mid-afternoon, Schroeder said she was overwhelmed by the number of people and the amount of money she was collecting. All the money will go to St. Mary’s Church, she said.
“When we started, it was more about getting the school cleaned out,’’ she said. “Now it’s about the money.”