PERRYSBURG - Banners outside announced “Sunny Days Are Here Again,” but the sky said different: Rain poured down through most of Toth Elementary's open house yesterday.
But the brand-new roof held up just fine, and the newly waxed floors shone with bright light. Parents, students, teachers, politicians, and principals mingled in the color-coordinated cafeteria and nosed through the four classrooms, computer lab, library, art, and music rooms of the 20,600-square-foot, $3.5 million Y-shaped addition.
Rik Davis, father of fifth-grader Katie Davis, was impressed with how the new section dovetails into the original structure that was built in 1952.
“The architects made an effort to match the two, to make the new blend in with what already existed,” he said. His son, Tony, now an eighth grader, spent his elementary years at Toth.
“It doesn't seem different. It's the same school, just newer and cleaner,” Tony said.
“I feel sort of like I missed out,” said Garett Lucyk, another 13-year-old Toth alumnus. “It's cool to come back, though ... I can touch the ceiling now!”
The boys were two of many who recalled old times at Toth. Bob Smith worked here for 37 of his 44 years of teaching. He retired six years ago.
“I practically own this place,” Mr. Smith said. “I started here in 1958. They certainly have more advanced technology now, but it's still like home. Frank Toth would be proud,” he said, recalling the school's former principal.
Toth Elementary originally was called Perrysburg Elementary. When it was built in 1952, the school's cutting-edge functional design was featured in Time, Newsweek, and Architect magazines.
As new elementary schools were built, it was renamed Elm Street School. In 1977, the school board renamed it after Mr. Toth when he retired.
A booming population over the years crowded too many children into too little space. A theater/auditorium in the basement was converted to a music room, and an open, airy lobby gave way to a library. Students lunched in a small, poorly lit basement room. In recent years, some classes met in portable classroom units set up in the front yard.
Today, the lobby is returned to its open common-space function. Art and music lessons are now housed in sunny classrooms.
“The best part is the kids can now see outside at lunchtime,” Principal Karen Christoff said. “And the art and music teachers get to see sunlight!”
“With all this space, the daily hallway traffic is just spread out more. There's more room to move around, less crowding,” said second-grade teacher Audrey Gorsuch. “It's taken a while, but I'm so excited to see this!”
“It's awesome,” agreed Allen Harrah, father of second-grader Allie Harrah. “It's long overdue.”
The Toth project is part of a 5.45-mill district-wide bond levy approved by voters in November, 1998, which also funded the new high school. Work on the new wing started in April, 1999.
Mr. Smith, a longtime fifth and sixth-grade teacher, said the new buildings are impressive, but the real work of education keeps to simple principles.
“It's the staff and the kids that make a school,” he said, “and kids don't really change much.
“I love being with kids. If you're a good teacher, you'll teach in a barn and those kids will get it.”