Leetonia’s graduating class will stroll into history
LEETONIA- When the class of 2014 crosses the stage at commencement next month, so too will the Leetonia school district’s former incarnation.
This year’s class marks the final one to have attended any other building other than the current K-12 campus on Walnut Street. The graduating students attended kindergarten at Washingtonville School, located at the current site of Santini Builders at the corner of School and Union streets.
Cathie McCoy taught one of the two last classes at Washingtonville. She described this year as bittersweet.
“Seeing [the school] torn down, and now the last graduating class,” she said. “As a teacher, there was always a class you could put with the school and now that’s gone.”
When the current campus opened in the fall of 2002, the district moved all the students to one building, closing Washingtonville, which housed kindergarten through second grade; Orchard Hill at the current K-12 site, which housed third through sixth grade; and the high school at the current library site on Walnut Street.
One school employee has a unique connection to the former schools.
Connie Harris, who works in the cafeteria, has a daughter, Alyssa, who is graduating this year. Her step-son Justin was also a member of the last graduating class at the old high school.
A South Range graduate herself, Harris did not attend Leetonia. However, her father, Richard Charlton, did. He attended Washingtonville School, too.
“It’s something special, it’s interesting to see the connection (between generations),” Harris said, noting that her father died before her daughter was born, so the two never met.
When the school closed 12 years ago, Harris marked the moment by replicating a photo of her father in first grade in 1944 in front of the Washingtonville School, snapping a photograph of her daughter’s p.m. kindergarten in the same location and in black and white.
“It’s just a cool piece of history,” Harris said.
McCoy is now a substitute, recently retiring after 28 years. She can recall what it was like teaching at the Washingtonville School, which was originally built in the 1870s and rebuilt in the early 1910s following a fire.
“I was in the basement, in a room that had been used to store coal,” she said. “There was a classroom with a stage in it.
“We used every available space in that building.”
She said the floors were all wooden and there was a large spiral staircase that the students were permitted to use. The cafeteria and gymnasium were also in a separate building.
“It was really a unique building to be in,” she said.
But the move was quickly embraced by teachers, McCoy said.
“We had nothing at Washingtonville, we even had to share a principal,” she said.
The new K-12 campus provided far more accessories to aid the educational process, giving them computers, bathrooms, telephones, a PA system and an office with a nurse and secretary.
“[Washingtonville School] was neat, but the change needed made,” McCoy said.