ELYRIA — The school that wasn’t going to be will be — and it has a new name.
In the Elyria Schools master plan, there is probably no more discussed project than a planned kindergarten-through-fourth-grade elementary school on the city’s south side.
On Friday, though, the discussion was not on construction costs, location or even the name.
That’s because a groundbreaking at an empty lot near 13th Street and Middle Avenue celebrated the future construction of a new Hamilton Elementary School.
The McKinley moniker is falling by the wayside as the district wants to highlight south side’s history by using a more familiar name. Superintendent Tom Jama made the announcement before one shovel of dirt was turned and the crowd erupted in cheers.
“In the early 1900s, a school existed on this site. That school was called the 13th Street Building,” Jama said. “Essentially, it was the first neighborhood school as we know them today. Throughout its early history, the school was referred to as the South School until 1907 when the Board of Education named many of the existing schools after prominent people in our history. The 13th Street Building or South School was named Hamilton after Alexander Hamilton, which existed on this current site. To preserve the name that was significant to the history of the south side and to the history of this school district, it gives me great pleasure to carry on that name today as Hamilton Elementary School.”
Some residents who watched the groundbreaking feared Friday would never come.
Derrick Robbins was raised on the south side. He lived at the South Park Apartments and his first elementary school was the old Hamilton School before the site was used for Head Start.
“It’s nice to see the new come in, but it’s sad to see the old go,” he said. “To see a new school come into the south side of Elyria is a real blessing.”
More than two months ago, school officials grappled with the possibility of not building a new school at the location as rising construction costs threatened to push the district’s building costs beyond its budget. To make the plan work, a suggestion emerged to eliminate a new Ely Elementary School and school on the south side.
However, district officials found a way to stay the course with a plan to shrink the project’s footprint and speed up the construction timeline.
“A few months back there were multiple challenges presented to the Board of Education regarding the five-school project,” said board president Kevin Brubaker. “There were several options shared with us about how to overcome those challenges. The board heard from many in the community on the importance of having five schools and specifically one on this site.”
The Rev. Carl Small, senior pastor at Second Baptist Church of Elyria, said he learned the significance of the south side school from the 5th Ward’s late City Councilman Herman Larkins.
“Mr. Larkins brought me approximately 2 feet from where we are right now and said, ‘On this spot, history was made. For they gave us a neighborhood school and that school’s name has changed over the years, but it is still our neighborhood school.’”
Councilman Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward, told residents Friday to celebrate the groundbreaking as a triumph of community spirit. From online petitions to emergency ward meetings, residents organized quickly behind one cause: to encourage school board members to keep the district’s building plan intact at all costs.
“I want to thank everyone who joined the campaign to save this school,” he said. “Your efforts are not only the reason why we are here today, but also why we can celebrate the other building of Ely Elementary School on the other side of town.”
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