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It was quiet in the halls of Margaret Brent Middle School on Monday morning, the first day of summer vacation for the school’s 983 students. The only noise came from intermittent announcements over the loud speaker about staff meetings or requests for building service worker assistance as teachers stripped down their classrooms.

No students at all.

And yet, remnants of those hundreds of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders and the just-ended school year of science and English classes, phys ed and band activities and a social world revved-up from elementary school days remained, like clues of a civilization left behind for archaeologists to study.

Joan Bartz, attendance secretary at Margaret Brent, pulled open a counter drawer in the front office where some of those remnants are stored several watches, a bracelet, three pairs of glasses, two cell phones, a pink house key, bits of jewelry, a couple of purses, a blue foam pencil case. In the corner, there was a violin and two saxophones. Bartz said the staff tries to locate the owners of items turned in to the office.

Cindy Garrison, secretary to the principal, told about getting in touch with the mother of a student who had misplaced a cell phone at the school. The mother said that it was the seventh cell phone the student had lost just that year.

When the staff can’t identify the owner of an item, they wait for someone to come to claim it. Once the drawer is full, those items are boxed and stored in the school’s basement, she said.

Then the drawer starts filling up again.

Mike Egan, principal at the school, added other clues to the lives of his students by bringing out items he had confiscated from students over the year. There were two tubes of fake blood, a duck call, lighters, a pocketknife, flashlights, something that looked like an iPod that was really an electronic “zapper” and something that looked like a package of gum ... that was really an electronic “zapper.” Parents are contacted and invited to stop by the office to pick up confiscated items. The items still left in Egan’s custody are there because parents said the items aggravated them too much and they didn’t want them back, he said.

But the real treasure trove of items left behind by the students isn’t found in the office. “It’s gonna blow your mind,” Egan said.

A large, rolling laundry bin normally kept in the hallway near the cafeteria has been pushed back into a nearby room now that school is out for the summer. The bin, which is about 4 feet tall and about 6 feet long, is piled high with hoodies, sweatshirts, jackets, sweaters, winter coats, lightweight coats, jeans, shorts, backpacks and insulated lunch bags hundreds of items. On the floor beside the bin, there is evidence that the gym lockers had been cleaned out. Athletic shoes are left in a pile.

“This is what gets me,” said Debbie Evans, a building service worker, holding up a black North Face winter coat on the top of the pile. “This is a $200 coat.”

Evans, who has worked at Margaret Brent for eight years, said the expensive items left behind go beyond clothing. They’ve found pricey graphing calculators and a camera with a long lens at the end of school.

She noticed some athletic shoes in the bin. “These are nice shoes, nothing wrong with them,” she said, as she shook her head and replaced them on top of the pile.

And the thing is, this bin gets filled up on average three times a year. Three times during the school year, students are notified that they need to check the lost and found. after they’ve had that chance the bin is emptied and all those shoes and clothes are donated. Just recently, the school has changed its donation process so that it benefits DARE, a drug and alcohol abuse prevention program.

For the next couple of weeks, the bin will be available for students and parents to rummage through to try to find that sweater grandma sent, or the winter coat mom was expecting to hand down to a younger son. Then, after a couple of weeks, the clothing and shoes will be donated. Any usable school supplies are salvaged to be used by students next year.

A green, spiral notebook is among the sprawling pile of items retrieved from the lockers and classrooms. The first page is dated Sept. 1, 2011. It was the beginning of the school year and the owner of the notebook dutifully copied down the classroom rules dictated by the teacher.

“We need to follow safety rules.”

“Do not engage in horseplay.”

“Read all directions before beginning the lab activity.”

Garrison has worked at Margaret Brent for seven years. She said she suspects the surprising bulk of lost items is due, in part, to the students changing classrooms for every class and not staying with the same group of classmates during the day ... a departure from elementary school. “They’re all over the place,” she said. “It’s a big transition.”

“When they come here, they’re scared to death,” Garrison said, noting especially how dealing with lockers for the first time intimidates the new students.

But by the end of eighth-grade, “they’re ready to go to high school, most of them,” she said.

To check for lost items

Parents and students can visit Margaret Brent Middle School from Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the next couple of weeks to search through the lost and found items. After that period, the items will be donated. For more information, call the school at 301-884-4635.