Tiffin City Schools is closing one chapter and opening another.
Doug Hartenstein, principal of Lincoln Elementary School, said people have an opportunity to create a new era and beginning for the district. What makes a school, he said, is people.
"The building's the symbol," he said.
Tiffin City Board of Education opted to reconfigure its elementary building structure in light of financial issues.
Next school year, it is to use three elementary buildings - Washington would hold kindergarten and first grade, Krout grades 2-3 and Noble grades 4-5 - instead of five. Clinton Elementary School, 2036 E. TR 122, and Lincoln Elementary School, 124 Ohio Ave., are to close.
Superintendent Donald Coletta said officials have been transitioning for a year to make sure they provide a smooth transition into the new configuration. It is important to them that they respect the rich tradition of educational excellence that has occurred and Clinton and Lincoln, he said.
"We are looking forward to the new configuration in the fall. ... I believe people will be very happy with the services that the new configuration will provide their children," he said.
Joanne Sigler, a Tiffin resident who taught at Clinton for 20 years, said it was a unique school. She said it was interesting that people who had gone to Clinton were eager to have their children go there as well, and children who left usually did well in the higher grades.
"It was small," she said.
Sigler said she thought the school being in the country was good because children spent time outside, and there always was a child in the class who could fix an electrical problem or who had a father who could make a windmill.
"It was a very close-knit school. ... Oftentimes, we had just one class of one grade," she said.
Sigler said she wasn't surprised to hear the school would be closed because she knows the district's financial problems, but she thought it was a shame to close a school that had been so successful.
"I was very disappointed (to hear about it closing)," she said.
Rick Van Mooy, a North Baltimore resident who taught at Clinton until about 1980 and also served as the acting principal, said he mostly remembers the children and occasionally still meets alumni.
"I have a million memories of Clinton," he said.
Van Mooy, who said he had a huge classroom converted from a kitchen, had his students launch helium balloons with notes during a study of prevailing wind. Most of them ended up in eastern Ohio and Pennsylvania, he said.
"People would mail back the tags," he said.
In 1976, Van Mooy's students buried a time capsule as a bicentennial project, and he said the capsule, which was a plastic trash can with duct tape, was part of a bicentennial registry. Clinton students gathered on the school's front lawn April 19 to watch the time capsule being removed from the ground.
"I'm glad they found it. ... That was a cool project," Van Mooy said.
Tom Anway, director of operations, attended Clinton and has a son there. He assisted with unearthing the time capsule and said opening it brought back a lot of memories.
Anway said closing Clinton is hard because relationships were built at the school. It is tough for the community and township, and there is no easy way to do what administrators have to do. They have to do what is best for the entire district, he said.
"(There are) decisions that have to be made sometimes," he said.
Anway said the positive thing is Clinton is a building, and the same teachers who excelled in the building are going to excel in the rest of the district for children. Officials are aware it is a close-knit community, he said.
Changes had to be made because of financial concerns, and change always is difficult for everyone, no matter what position they're in, he said.
"The building, unfortunately, because of the location requires so much additional busing to get kids to it," he said.
Kathy Wetta, interim principal at Northrop Elementary School, which is part of Medina City Schools, got her start as a principal while serving at Lincoln about 24 years ago. She said Lincoln was a small school building, and she has fond memories of it.
"You could really get to know the families and the staff as well. ... That was really a great place to start," she said.
Wetta, a Tiffin native, said she thinks every experience a person has, especially as a new principal, gives him or her more confidence in handling the next situation that arises. She said being the principal at Lincoln was a good learning experience.
"I still stay in touch with a number of the staff there, and ... it just was a great, great building to start at," she said.
Wetta recalled the school had a campaign to come up with the school's mascot. Children submitted designs for a flag, and "Lincoln Lions, the pride of Tiffin" was selected as the theme.
"I sewed a flag that we put up in the cafeteria," she said.
She also remembers the smell of potato chips from Ballreich's, which is located down the street from the school. She said field days always were a lot of fun, and the school had water balloon tosses at the end of the school year.
"Kids always wanted to soak me," she said.
Wetta said the school was the center of the neighborhood.
She remembers how involved a number of families were in some of the activities the school had. She said she got the sense it was a true neighborhood school, where people lived close-by and children walked and rode bicycles to school.
"They played at school after hours," she said.
Hartenstein said Lincoln has served Tiffin City Schools and the students in the neighborhood well. People know and appreciate all that Lincoln has been able to accomplish. They would like it to continue but are excited about the new opportunities ahead, he said.
"It's played a big role in Tiffin City Schools. ... There's a lot of pride involved," he said.
People are to have an opportunity to visit Clinton and Lincoln before they close.
Clinton's celebration is 1-3 p.m. Saturday. Principal Michael Newlove said he hopes the open house attracts people who will reminisce about what the building has meant to them.
"There's been thousands (of students go through) at this point," he said.
Lincoln's celebration is May 11, with an open house 5-6 p.m. and games, prizes, raffles and food 6-8 p.m.
"Hopefully, we get a good turnout," Hartenstein said.
One of the purposes of the open house is to thank students, families and staff. Hartenstein said people who live near the school can visit it.
"They've been good neighbors to us," he said.
Future of buildings
Anway said administrators would like to sell Clinton to a community-minded group that wants to carry on the school's athletic programs and that can use it for the community. They have had conversations with groups and are searching for a person or group to step forward, he said.
"Our intent is to sell it," he said.
Anway said the district is going to keep Lincoln, and it would be the perfect building if the district needed to implement a preschool program. It is looking at groups to rent or lease the building for now, he said.
"Nothing has been finalized," he said.
Lincoln could house a possible latchkey program, which could offer mentoring, activities and a snack.
"The community task force is looking at a program that would assist with before- and after-school child care, in a latchkey-type program, to assist families who need child care and have children at multiple schools," said Pat DeMonte, executive director of Tiffin-Seneca United Way.
Officials have looked at using Lincoln because it already is configured for children's use, she said.
"It has the gymnasium area. It has the classroom area," she said. "It would be a good spot for busing pick-up (and) drop-off."
DeMonte said she is not sure whether Tiffin is going to have a need for a latchkey program, and she would like to hear from the community about it.
Tiffin City Schools is to have open houses at what will be known as Washington K-1, Krout 2-3 and Noble 4-5 in the spring, along with orientations there in late summer.
Anway said the goal of the open houses is for parents and children to feel comfortable about the buildings they're entering next school year.
"The children are invited to attend," he said.
Anway said all open houses are to include a casual walk around the buildings 6:30-7:30 p.m., with a question-and-answer session with building principals 7:30-8 p.m. in multi-purpose rooms.
Staff members and transportation eligibility maps are to be at the events, which are May 7 for Washington K-1, May 8 for Krout 2-3 and May 10 for Noble 4-5. A bus and driver also are to be at each open house.
"Many kids in town have never ridden a school bus before. ... We will not have exact pick-up times and exact locations for the students yet. It's just too soon. We can't get everything put together, however, we will have eligibility at that point in time," Anway said.
Hartenstein said transitions are taking place for next school year's new configuration. Parent-teacher organizations started working together last year, Newlove said.
Staff members have been meeting, planning and getting organized in preparation for the new configuration.
"We're excited," Hartenstein said. "We're excited to get things going."