WEST CARROLLTON SCHOOL DISTRICT
Dickinson T Guiler
Local histories mention that there was a teacher, Samuel Bolton, in Carrollton as early as 1802. In 1817 an adjoining community, Alexandersville, became the site of the first building constructed for school purposes.
Alexandersville later became part of Carrollton, and Carrollton became West Carrollton to distinguish it from the other Ohio Carrollton in Carroll County.
In 1825 a two-room school was built in West Carrollton. The school district organization within Miami Township was established in 1830, and in 1889 the newly-created West Carrollton School District elected its first board of education. There were 149 students in the eight-grade school in 1889.
A two-year high school began in 1894 and graduated five girls and one boy in 1896. It became a four-year school in 1909. By 1913 the first high school building was erected. It had three classrooms, vocational and domestic training facilities, an auditorium and an office.
In 1923 a large addition made possible the consolidation of all classes from West Carrollton, Alexandersville, the District 3 School on Lamme Road, and the District 12 School on Vance Road into one building (the core of the present junior high).
This building had an unusual gymnasium with no room for spectators. However, the common wall between the gym and two classrooms could be folded back; and the audience sat in the classrooms to watch the games. A few additional spectators could stand on a four-foot deep balcony, which ran with the length of the gym.
The consolidation meant that some students rode to school from Moraine City on the traction (interurban). Miss Helen Wellbaum, a first grade teacher, also rode the traction and was responsible for student behavior, including keeping some older students out of the smoking portion of the traction. By 1932 the district bought another school bus so Miss Wellbaum no longer needed to proctor the car.
The Work Progress Administration (WPA) helped add an auditorium-gymnasium in 1936. It, too, was unique. Connected to the 1923 building by a “tunnel” (an enclosed walkway), the gym and auditorium shared the same auditorium seats with a hydraulically-lifted wall between them. In 1937 WPA also shared in the building of the cement stadium at the football field.
Moraine City Elementary (C.F. Holliday) School opened in 1950; the West Carrollton Elementary (Walter Shade) School in 1954; and the Frank Nicholas School (in what is now the city of Moraine) in 1957.
Moraine became a village in 1957 and a city in 1965. Students in the city of Moraine are divided among three school districts. Those living in what used to be Miami Township in the more heavily populated southern part of Moraine attend West Carrollton Schools. Those living in the former Van Buren Township in the northern section of Moraine attend Kettering City Schools. Those living in the area annexed from Jefferson Township in the western part of Moraine attend the Jefferson Township Schools.
The Harry Russell School opened in 1965 and was the first elementary school with a library—and a rabbit. Thumper lived in the enclosed courtyard from 1965 until 1972. One of the teachers’ duties was to see that students didn’t over-feed him. Thumper particularly liked Saturdays since the custodian let the pet follow him about in the building. Prior to taking up residence in the school courtyard, Thumper had spent his summers in Kentucky, where he terrorized the local dogs with his rear-feet kick!
The Valley Hills School opened in January of 1969 after a 180-day construction strike delay. It is an open space building with room for four classes in each “pod.” In 1975 it was renamed the Harold Schnell School for the retiring superintendent. With the addition of a wing at Schnell in 1974, the elementary schools were complete.
The new high school was designed to be built in phases beginning in 1960 and with additions in 1962,1963 and 1967. The most recent addition, the auditorium wing, was completed in 1990. After the high school was built, the 1923 building housed only junior high students. It was renovated and enlarged in 1978-80.
In the 22 years from 1949 to 1971 the West Carrollton student population jumped from 1,253 to 5,918. Such rapid growth meant that rental space in churches and other buildings was common. In 1953-54 a first and second grade were housed in the basement of the Assembly of God Church, with one light bulb in each room but no toilet facilities.
At morning and afternoon recess the students walked to the unheated public restrooms in the stadium, and at noon they walked four blocks to the 1923 building for lunch. An emergency meant that one teacher stayed with both classes while the other walked the child to the stadium restroom.
Double sessions—four hours each for the morning and afternoon groups—were common in one or two grades in the 1950s and 1960s, but the most innovative solution was the year-round school.
Beginning in 1971 with a committee of seven district residents to study feasibility, the project was enhanced by sub-committees involving over 130 additional people. Presentations were made at each school and at nineteen public meetings. On July 19,1972 the Board of Education adopted the 45-15 year-round plan for kindergarten through ninth grade on an as-needed basis.
The plan went into operation in 1973 at the junior high school and at one elementary school, and was in effect for eight years. Under the 45-15 plan, the student body was divided into four “tracks”, three of which were in session at any time. Students attended school for nine weeks, and then had a three-week vacation. This plan increased the number of students who could be housed in a school building by one-third.
Additions to the junior high and a gradual decrease in enrollment by 1981 brought the district to the point that the space saving provided by the 45-15 plan was no longer needed. However, a number of parents of elementary school students requested continuation of the program on a single track, and Schnell School continues to provide an alternative calendar for those who request it.
Prior to the 1950s the upper-elementary grades were departmentally organized, which meant that each student had a different teacher for each of the six courses taught. Teachers taught a single subject, but at two or three grade levels. Departmentalization slowly evolved into self-contained classrooms. Now some teachers of the same grade level trade students in reading and mathematics to provide for ability grouping.
For many years the foreign languages taught were two years each of Latin and French. In the early 1940s West Carrollton followed the national trend and changed from French to Spanish. Latin disappeared about 1965, four years after Spanish classes were available to freshmen and sophomores. German was first offered in 1962, and French was re-introduced in 1965. Each language is now offered for four years.
Vocational Economics, a full-year required class for ninth-graders, was “invented” at West Carrollton and attracted attention from educators all over the state. Originally taught by counselors/teachers, the course emphasized vocations, economics and geography.
Vocational classes were added in the 1960s, including distributive education, diversified cooperative training, vocational home economics (which had been discontinued in the 1940s), cooperative office education, occupational work experience, vocational auto mechanics and others. Most were discontinued in 1971, or soon thereafter, with the opening of the Montgomery County Joint Vocational School. Vocational home economics, occupational work experience and occupational work adjustment remain in the West Carrollton curriculum.
Fifth year mathematics was first offered in 1966, but students were required to take the fourth year math in summer school until first year algebra was offered to eighth graders.
Bachelor Living was a popular home economics course in the late 1960s. It was dropped in 1973, about the time that Title IX was raising questions about single-sex classes and activities. A similar course called Life Planning now enrolls both boys and girls.
Because of Federal Title land Title III funding, both a reading and a math lab were added to the junior high in 1966. An inquiry science program was instituted at the junior high school in 1969, with the teachers serving as facilitators. At the same time, West Carrollton began offering mini-courses, each a quarter in length and designed to allow students greater freedom. These mini-courses were phased out during the 1980s, but some semester courses are still offered. Computer courses have been available in the high school since 1974 and the junior high school since 1984.
Special education first began in 1954 with one speech and hearing specialist; currently there are four therapists. Education of the developmentally handicapped began in 1959 with one upper-elementary class. That program expanded to neighborhood schools educating special education students from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade.
The first school psychologist was hired in 1966, and as more special programs were “mainstreamed” into the public schools, more services were added. There are three psychologists now serving the system.
Learning disabled students were first taught in the system in 1970, and a high school LD program, the Life Lab, began in 1972; there are now eight LD units. Tutors also assist students who need help but can remain in regular classrooms for most of the day.
There are now four classes for the multi-handicapped as well. A preschool for three, four and five-year old handicapped students was begun in 1989, and home instruction is available for students. Since 1984 West Carrollton has also added work-study coordinators who aid the handicapped in gaining and keeping employment.
Gifted elementary students attend a special unit one day per week. At the junior high school level, four teachers each teach a gifted class for one period per day. At the high school level, selective classes and individual mentoring are provided.
Beginning before 1920 with two co-educational literary societies, extra-curricular activities increased dramatically over the years. An early highlight was the annual Miamisburg-West Carrollton speech contest with debate, oration, essays, readings and female and male vocal solos.
The school orchestra began in the teens and continues to provide excellent musical training for our young musicians. Hi-Y and the CTU (Christian Temperance Union) Girls in the 1920s were followed by the Girl Reserves and the Y-Teens. Both the marching and concert bands grew to become sizable organizations in the 1930’s. Now they are complemented by the pep band, the jazz band, and flag corps.
The yearbook, originally called the Wecaton, now the Piratan, can trace its beginnings to the teens, as can the student paper, The Cutlass. Sketches of the Mind is a literary magazine published annually since 1966.
The National Honor Society began in the 1930s and since 1958 has admitted juniors. Also dating from the 1930s is the schoolboy patrol, now co-educational and used only for elementary schools. Among the duties of the original patrol was riding the buses and getting off at the railroad crossings to make sure that no train was coming.
Some clubs are no longer functioning. As in many other schools, increased academic requirements make it difficult for students to participate in many activities. Future Homemakers of America was discontinued in the late 1940s, and the Latin Club disappeared with the dropping of that language course.
Allied Youth (alcohol-free recreation) was the largest club in the 1950s but died in the 1960s, as did the Future Business Leaders of America, JCOWA (Junior Council on World Affairs) ceased operations in the early 1970s, but was re-established in 1989. Students are now members of SADD and the CARE team, both were established to provide student to student assistance in solving social and personal problems.
The Chess Club, the Art Club, Future Nurses of America, the Ham Radio Club, the National Biology Honor Society and the Future Teachers of America have been replaced by the French, German, and Spanish Clubs, the Varsity Club, Junior Achievement, the Drama Club, the Ecology Club and the Muse Machine.
The West Carrollton Education Recognition Association (ERA), originally known as Community Awards Recognition for Education Scholarship (CARES), was formed in 1963 to provide the same recognition for students who achieve in the classroom that student athletes and musicians receive. At evening programs each spring, students with honor roll grades receive appropriate awards. In addition, ERA presents scholarships and merit awards to graduating seniors.
The West Carrollton Education Foundation, a tax-exempt, non-profit organization, was created in 1989 to provide funds for the promotion of excellence in education within the district. The monies raised from private donations supplement school dollars by awarding grants to parents, educators, students or any interested persons through the grant proposals.
Starting with football and baseball in 1915, sports increased to 16 interscholastic sports offered today. Full schedule girls’ interscholastic sports have been offered only since the 1970s.
The 1989-90 list included football, cross country, boys’ and girls’ soccer (the girls’ soccer replaced field hockey which had been played for almost 30 years), girls’ volleyball, basketball for boys and girls, wrestling, baseball, softball, boys’ and girls’ track and tennis, golf and swimming.
The West Carrollton School District is proud of the good learning environment. Students are challenged, but there is no cut-throat competition, no elitism. There is cautious movement towards educational innovation, and individual teachers have considerable autonomy within broad parameters. West Carrollton is a diverse community with a basic belief in the value of education, resulting in an unusual amount of citizen involvement.