Kaleidoscope: Taking a look at some old schools in Portage County

by KEN LAHMERS | EDITOR Published:

The former Aurora High School building on East Garfield Road, where the district's central offices are now located, is one of the oldest school facilities still existing in Portage County, and this year is marking its 100th anniversary.

I covered the history of the building previously in Part I of this "Kaleidoscope" special two-parter.

That building, erected in 1914, faces East Garfield Road. The building between it and Hurd Road, which is now Craddock School and accommodates students in first and second grades, was added in the 1940s.

The 100-year-old building housed high school students until the original part of the current high school was completed in 1965.

EXISTING OLD SCHOOLS

From information I was able to compile, the Aurora building is the sixth oldest still standing which once housed students in Portage County. That's not counting a few old one-room buildings.

Aurora also boasts the second oldest -- the current Town Hall -- which became the county's first centralized school building in 1898.

Kent's old Depeyster School, which now houses that district's central offices, was erected in 1888 -- and after a couple of additions -- still stands majestically on North Depeyster Avenue near Crain Avenue. It's the county's oldest school facility.

Bowery-Highland School at Highland and Walnut streets in Ravenna was built in 1910 and is abandoned.

The original section of Paris Township School was built in 1912, with later additions. It is located at Route 225 and Newton Falls Road and is crumbling away.

The original section of Palmyra Township School, which is on Tallmadge Road just east of Route 225 and has sat empty for several years with a portion of its roof collapsed, was built in 1913, according to a 1931 edition of the Speedometer, the county schools' yearbook. An addition followed in 1938.

As far as I can determine, 11 other schools that were built in the 1910s-1920s are still standing in Portage County -- nine public and two parochial.

Ravenna Township School on West Main Street in Ravenna went up in 1915 and is now used as the district's preschool.

Only five of the other older buildings still house students -- Rootstown (1917), Davey and Franklin Township in Kent and the original part of St. Joseph's in Randolph (all 1922) and Kent's St. Patrick's (1924).

Kent's School Board plans to close Franklin Township and the much newer Central School because of declining enrollment. Davey once was the high school before the existing Kent Roosevelt was built in 1959, and now houses elementary students.

Old school buildings still standing which no longer house students are Mantua Township

(1916), soon to house a community center; Deerfield on Route 224 (1919), which houses a pizza shop and grocery store; Brady Lake (1923), now abandoned; and Mantua Village (1929), which houses doctors' offices.

Some of the old buildings which have been razed in recent years are Brimfield, Suffield, Randolph and the old Ravenna High School (just a couple of years ago).

MORE SCHOOL DETAILS

According to Record-Courier editor Roger DiPaolo in one of his past "Portage Pathways" columns, Portage County once had 23 school districts -- it now has 12 -- and there were 166 school buildings in the early 1900s.

That was before Ohio established county school offices. With the exception of Aurora, Portage County first turned its attention to centralization in 1914. H.B. Turner was the first superintendent of Portage County schools, and was succeeded in 1916 by O.E. Pore. During the latter's tenure until 1925, centralization was virtually completed.

The county's last four one-room schools to be abandoned in the late 1920s-early 1930s were North Benton in Deer

field Township, Hiram Rapids, Shalersville Township and Suffield Township.

According to DiPaolo, who cited statistics compiled by then Portage County Auditor E.J. Smith, Kent had the highest-paid teachers in 1901, with a male elementary educator getting an average of $52 per month (females got $10 less) and high school men and women faculty getting $82 and $57, respectively.

In 1900-01, Kent spent the most on teachers' salaries -- $10,035 -- while Randolph was the lowest at $926, according to Smith.

As far as consolidations go, DiPaolo said the Southeast district was created in 1950 largely because of the existence of the huge Ravenna Army Ammunition Plant. It encompassed Edinburg, Paris, Palmyra, Charlestown and Deerfield townships. It also is the county's largest district in territory.

Crestwood was formed in 1951. After Mantua Center and Mantua Village consolidated in 1948, Shalersville and Hiram followed, while Garrettsville, Nelson and Freedom formed the James A. Garfield district in 1951.

Kent, Brady Lake and Franklin Township merged in the late 1950s, as did Ravenna and Ravenna Township, while Field (Brimfield and Suffield townships) and Waterloo (Atwater and Randolph townships) were the last to consolidate in the 1960s.

I am indebted to DiPaolo for providing these interesting facts about Portage schools.

Email: klahmers@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4189

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