By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Elementary School is 100 years old this year and students there are embracing the school’s founding.
“We decided to celebrate the school building’s 100th birthday on Jan. 27 because it was also the 100th day of school and that is a day we celebrate every year,” said Groveport Elementary Principal April Bray. “The staff planned so many fun lessons around the number 100.”
She said students were encouraged to dress like they were 100 years old or wear a shirt with 100 items. Students put 100 items in a bag and wrote clues for their classmates to guess what was inside.
“Our first graders wrote informative essays about things they learned about Groveport Elementary,” said Bray. “Vicki Ottman also came in and spoke about what Groveport Elementary was like when she attended kindergarten there in the 1950s. She showed pictures of her kindergarten graduation, school report card, and told stories about what it was like when she went to our school. Vicki’s mom also attended Groveport School (as the building was called when it housed all 12 grades) and graduated in 1924.”
Bray said the celebration also included recognizing all the students who made at least 100 percent progress toward their i-Ready Stretch Growth goal for reading and math. Students made 100th day of school crowns, researched what life was like in 1923, used an app to see what they would like when they are 100 years old, wrote about what they would do if they were turning age 100 today, listed 100 reasons why they love Groveport Elementary, hid 100 Hershey Kisses around the room and challenged students to find them all and match the numbers on the bottom to the hundreds chart, and read books with 100 in the title.
“The students were very excited and interested to hear about the history of the school,” said Bray. “Our staff takes great pride in our school and its history. I can only imagine how many of our former students have gone on to help change and make the world a better place.”
When asked what some of the things are that the students and staff like about the historic school, Bray said, “They love the auditorium, library, gym, hardwood floors, traditions that continue to this day, the stone fountain, the World War II memorial, the uniqueness of the architecture, and how much this school has been a pillar in the community.”
This event was just the beginning of the students’ and staff’s plans to celebrate the school’s 100th year.
“We are still discussing some other possible celebrations for the kids, but we will have an adults only community 100th Anniversary Celebration Aug. 5 from 1-3 p.m.,” said Bray. “More information from the planning committee will be shared in the coming months.”
Bray said the school holds a special place in the hearts of the community.
“I think the community is proud of our school and Groveport Elementary’s place in Groveport’s history,” said Bray. “The community has always been very supportive of the school and they value education and want to preserve our history.”
Groveport School history
On Aug. 8, 1921, with enrollment on the rise, Groveport Madison school board members W.H. Hanstein, G.W. Woerlein, Pearl Watkins, Daniel Schleppi, and Clarence Stevenson presented a bond issue to the district, which the voters approved, to build a new $225,000, three story red brick school on Groveport’s east Main Street to house all 12 grades, as well as an elementary school at Edwards’ Station on Alum Creek Drive at Williams Road. (In an architectural curiosity, Edwards Elementary was designed as a smaller version of Groveport School.)
Bond issue campaign literature from 1921 noted the new “Groveport School” enabled the district to close down the six one room schoolhouses it was operating around Madison Township as well as the smaller, nearly 40-year-old school that housed all 12 grades that was once located where Groveport’s Naomi Court now stands.
Groveport School (now Groveport Elementary) opened in 1923 and housed all 12 grades until the mid-1950s when a new high school was built next door. Groveport School was constructed on land that was once pasture land owned by the Rarey family and where the famous horse Cruiser romped.
The school features interior golden glazed brick walls as well as a separate gymnasium and auditorium, which is unique for school buildings of its era that often combined the gym and auditorium into one room.
Playing fields and a playground compliment the structure. A grand front lawn sweeps out to meet Main Street and features the recently restored stone fountain as its centerpiece.
The original classroom design for Groveport School included manual arts, agriculture laboratory, machine shop, home economics, cafeteria, and storage, locker rooms on the first floor. The second floor housed grades 1-8 while the third floor held the high school classrooms.
Besides providing a home for education, Groveport School has been a social center for both community and school functions including farmers’ exhibits, dances, lyceum courses, plays, athletics, and concerts.
The school remains a thriving and active place educationally. It is an architectural jewel nestled in downtown Groveport that is a functioning reminder of Groveport and Madison Township’s past as well as a beacon of promise for the future. Above all, it remains a symbol of the area’s desire to provide a solid public education to its citizenry.
Groveport Elementary School, as well as Groveport Madison Middle School Central next door, were both placed on the National Register of Historic Places early in the 21st century.