Bumpy road when schools merge

MARGARETTA Although it has been three decades or more since a few area school districts merged, memo
Janet
May 24, 2010

MARGARETTA

Although it has been three decades or more since a few area school districts merged, memories of the past linger for some, and those memories include resentments and regrets.

Traditions, sports and family connections to schools present real challenges for any district looking to a future that might be different from the past. Ending long-held beliefs and school pride is no easy task.

Margaretta

"It was difficult," Delores Meggitt said about the first year Townsend and Margaretta schools consolidated. "That graduating class was hit the hardest."

In 1965, Townsend schools became part of the Margaretta school district. Meggitt's husband, Leland, was an upperclassman at Townsend, where he attended classes his entire life. He graduated with a diploma from Margaretta in 1966.

Townsend was forced to consolidate with Margaretta because of its lack of funding and low enrollment numbers.

"They were all just so small," Meggitt said. "They couldn't financially survive. Schools were being forced to join together so they could survive."

Meggitt was on the other side of the fence. She was an underclassman at Margaretta.

"It was difficult for them as it would be for anybody," Meggitt said about the transfer students. "The graduating class never felt like they fit. They didn't get to graduate from the schools they had attended for so many years."

Fran Warner's husband, Charles, also was a graduate of Townsend. Although he graduated nearly a decade before the two schools merged, it still affected him as well as the rest of the community.

"They weren't very excited about it," Warner said. "That school went way back."

For such a small community, Townsend was the social heart for residents.

"People around here have a lot of community," Warner said. "To them, it's just a really special place in their heart. That same type of feeling is still there today."

The Townsend school building stands. It has been through a few renovations and expansions and is currently Townsend Elementary School, a grades 4-6 school for Margaretta Local Schools. Meggitt is the school's principal.

Margaretta's current student population is 1,470.

Bellevue

Bill Oddo graduated from Bellevue High School in 1950. Seventeen years later, his school district absorbed York and Thompson schools.

"I think it was the curriculum of the schools," Oddo said. "They either had to spend more money or merge. That was just the climate of the times."

York and Thompson were no different than other rural communities. The high schools played a big part in residents' community pride.

"With York and Thompson both, those schools were their community centers," Oddo said. "Losing their schools -- that was a big blow."

Oddo recalls a time in 1947 when a resident submitted a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. Bellevue Hospital needed money to expand. The resident suggested that York and Bellevue schools consolidate to help the hospital grow. Twenty years later, that resident's thought became reality. Oddo said he still has the newspaper clipping.

Although many students from Bellevue, York and Thompson knew one another, transferring to the larger school was still a difficult transition.

"Some of the kids from York and Thompson resented coming to Bellevue, but they survived it," he recalled.

Bellevue's current student population is 2,344.

Berlin-Milan

It was nearly 40 years ago when Berlin and Milan schools merged, but the memory of the consolidation still stings for many.

Charles Lindecamp, the district's first superintendent, did not return calls seeking information about the merger. Lindecamp did talk about the merger, however, in past Register articles.

Residents of Berlin Township and Milan Township were against a schools merger for fear of losing their individual identities. The community's reaction set back the merger date by nearly two years.

"They weren't at all anxious," said Robert Stein in a past interview. Stein served on the Milan school board and the first Berlin-Milan school board.

"They didn't want this to happen," he said.

Community members distributed a petition against the county board's decision to merge the districts. They were able to collect enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot. The petition passed by eight votes -- 2,054 to 2,046.

Residents got what they wanted. The merger was delayed.

The county board hired a team of professors from the University of Toledo to survey the community and make a recommendation. The solution? Consolidate schools in Berlin, Milan and Huron townships. Huron declined the offer.

In August 1965, nearly two years after the first attempt to consolidate, a date was set by the county board to merge Milan and Berlin schools.

Berlin-Milan's current student population is 1,823.

Clyde-Green Springs

Claude Young and his wife, Carolyn, are graduates of Green Springs High School. He graduated in 1950 and his wife in 1953.

Sixteen years after Carolyn Young graduated, Green Springs merged with Clyde -- one of many schools forced to join others in the 1960s.

"(Green Springs) was one of many schools pushed to consolidate," she said. "We were a small school and we were pushed by the state to do something."

The green and white school colors that represented the Green Springs Bobcats were soon replaced with Clyde Fliers' yellow and blue.

"It was somewhat strained," said Claude Young about the community's reaction to the consolidation. "Clyde and Green Springs had always been sports rivals."

Carolyn Young was a teacher at Green Springs when the merger took place.

"Of course you're going to have that," she said. "It was difficult, but we did it."

Talks of consolidating the school district with another one had been circulating around the community for several years, Claude Young said.

Carolyn Young said she couldn't recall any teachers being laid off during the transition.

"Most teachers transferred to Clyde," she said.

The original Green Springs school building is now home to Green Springs Elementary School, which houses kindergarten to sixth-grade students. The building was constructed in 1938.

Claude Young, director of the Stemtown Historical Society Museum in Green Springs, said much of the school's memorabilia has been kept.

"We have everything in our historical society," he said. "The Bobcats history."

Clyde-Green Springs' current student population is 2,253.