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Feature on schools. Topic: EDUCATION
Written by Linda DeVelvis in August, 1994

SCHOOLS EVOLVED FROM EARLY DAYS


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Note: The following article is a summary of a research project written by Mary Ellen (Miller) Boller who retired from the Sidney City Schools in 1993. Photos are also courtesy of Mary.

The importance of schooling in our community was established from the beginning by Charles Starrett, the founder of Sidney. Starrett set forth several stipulations for his gift of land for the town, one of which was "one acre for the use of the schools."

As settlers arrived, the need for schools became evident. At first, churches met the needs of the community. Cephas Carey brought the first teacher here for his children and soon other families were hiring teachers for their children.

The first free school was established in the county in 1841. Most were subscription schools, where the student paid to attend. School then usually lasted four months as students were expected to work on the farm the rest of the year. By the late 1800s, a few communities in Shelby County had high schools, but most had no more than eight grades.

The requirement for teaching, especially in the one room schools, was usually just passing a teacher’s examination. No college degree was required. Emphasis was placed on reading, writing, arithmetic and spelling.

In 1856, the citizens of Sidney approved a tax levy of $12,000 to build a school. After much heated debate, the site selected was the one set aside by Starrett for a school. It was a brick three-story building, with 12 classrooms. This first school was called the Union School and was located on the site of the current Central Elementary School today.   A ward school was built in each of the four city wards before 1900, with each school taking the name of the ward.

Below, bus drivers wait to transport Port Jefferson students home.  Photo courtesy of Mary Boller.

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For many years, black residents were educated at the ‘colored school', located where the National Guard Armory was later situated (now home to the Cameo Theatre). In 1887, this school was discontinued when the city schools opened to both black and white students. The Catholic Church also started a school for Catholic students, beginning with a partitioned area of the church in 1858. A school building was erected on the church grounds in 1876.

Because of the influx of people and the growth of industry, the schools in Sidney needed to grow also. In 1903, the third floor of the Union School was condemned. A rally was held in downtown Sidney and a committee was formed to plan a new high school and junior high school.  By 1909, a proposal was made to secure the no-longer-used Presbyterian Cemetery for part of the school grounds. This was one of the cemeteries set aside in the original Starrett land. Work was begun on relocating the graves to the new cemetery at the south end of town.

A donation by Miss Julia Lamb allowed the school to purchase a large area of land near the Miami River, which became the high school football field. The first class graduated from the new high school in 1914. The junior high building was not added until later. This building was later called Bridgeview Middle School. That building was torn down when the new Sidney Middle School opened in 2004.   Less well known is the fact that Sidney had a college in the early 1900s, known as the Buckeye Business College. The classes of 1904 and 1905 graduated together in 1906, then it closed.

During the 1920s, voters approved a tax levy for construction of Central School, Parkwood School and the addition of a junior high school to the existing high school. Parkwood came about with the annexation of a community called Jimtown to the north of Sidney. It was built to accommodate students living in the northern part of the town and Central School was built to replace the old building on the site.

During the 1930s, Port Jefferson became a part of the Sidney school system, and later Maplewood also joined. Orange Township then became part of the system and the bussing of students to school became a familiar sight by the late 1930s.

After World War II, the citizens of Sidney encountered the need for more schools as a result of the ‘baby boom.’ This resulted in the renovation of the Port Jefferson and Maplewood schools, replacement of the old ward schools with four new buildings. Whittier, Emerson, Longfellow and finally Lowell schools opened their doors in the early 1950s.

Parkwood Junior High School (now Northwood) was built and the junior high programs eventually divided between Northwood and what became Bridgeview. Finally, in 1960, the new Sidney High School on Campbell opened its doors. In 1969, after an addition was made, Sidney High School included 9th through 12th grade students.

Throughout the history of the educational system, the community has responded to maintain a high quality of education. A joint effort between education and business has also been instrumental in maintaining the quality educational system.

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The last students attended Port Jefferson School (pictured above) in 1979-80. It was later torn down.

 

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