Clear Fork superintendent updates Bellville, Jefferson Township Historical Society members

BELLVILLE — Janice Wycoff, Clear Fork’s ssuperintendent of schools, spoke at the Bellville Jefferson Township Historical Society on Monday, April 15. It was providence that this is the week the 1894 school building is being demolished, and the sentiments about the building and the schools were forefront in our minds.

Mrs. Wycoff grew up on a family farm that had been a Jefferson land grant. The house she lived in was built in 1835. Her niece and nephew are the eighth generation to maintain that farm, which has, at times, raised potatoes, grain, chickens, or beef.

The demolition of the school building is well-organized. The students in the new building do not hear the demolition because the new building is sound proof. The sequence of demolition is Bellville, Butler, then the Hines Avenue building. The Annex (formerly the band room/shop) will be updated and remodeled for board offices. The Hines Ave. building needs about $750,000 in updates and repairs, so it was deemed advisable to demolish that, too.

When the new building was being planned, the board thought it was important to keep the location inside the village limits. Children can walk to the library, post office and grocery store. Mrs. Wycoff said it is important for children to be familiar with village services. She said she grew up with a bookmobile in her community, and didn’t have an opportunity to learn to use the resources of the library as a child.

Mrs. Wycoff talked about the technology in the new building, and said that children are as familiar with a keyboard as old folks were familiar with using a pencil. State tests are taken on a computer.

If you asked Mrs. Wycoff, she would tell you that Clear Fork offers the best rural education, with great teachers and the best behaved kids. She did relay a humorous experience with one ornery young man who was in Mr. Clyde Porter’s class. It seems he was paddled a number of times.

A display case will be placed in the new building with items reminiscent of the old building.

We got to see the architect’s drawing of the final landscaping, driveways and athletic fields planned. With the new building being so close to the old building, it was difficult for us to envision to finished product. There is a beautiful plan for the finished product.

Snow days cost the district between $15,000 and $16,000. Safety must be first priority, but Mrs. Wycoff is cautious about closing school due to weather, because of the extra cost burden.

As the building comes down, bricks are placed by the alley by the septic plant. Anyone who wants a brick (or more than one) can drive up and take it. Enter the driveway beside Kuhn’s building off East Durbin.

Yes, it is true that kindergarten children are being shuttled to Butler for class. The new building was built for 350 students, and the district has 387 students.

The next Historical Society meeting will be Monday evening, May 20 at 7 p.m. in the community room. The speaker will be Deb Ramsey, whose topic will be the Westinghouse 1939 “Home of Tomorrow” that was built in Woodland.


By Lynn Fox

Special to the Inquirer