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Lima puzzles over names for new schools

LIMA, Ohio - Telling people their old neighborhood school was going to be torn down was hard enough.

Now the Lima city schools have to come up with names for the schools that will replace the old buildings.

As the district embarks on a $104 million building project, a committee is being formed to recommend whether to keep or change the names.

“There could be some interesting discussions,” said Ronnie Boedicker, coordinator of district construction and district operations. “We're going from nine elementaries to five. The committee will look at what names are kept, what names are not. Are there going to be any new names that would be put into the mix?”

While Mr. Boedicker expects residents to want to keep the names of Lima Senior High School and the three middle schools - North, South, and West - the elementary-school names are questionable.

Jack Saine, a retired school administrator and lifelong Lima resident, said only one of the elementary schools was named after a person with local ties. Faurot Elementary was named for Benjamin Faurot, who was involved in Lima's early oil business and helped introduce gas lighting and street cars here.

“He really was a very important person in the city's history,” Mr. Saine said. “What's strange is that he has a very anonymous little stone in Woodlawn Cemetery. His passing was not very much memorialized at all.”

Several of the other elementary buildings - Washington-McKinley, Jefferson, Lincoln - were named for U.S. presidents. Others were tributes to poets, including Longfellow, Emerson, and Whittier. One school was named for inventor Thomas Edison and another for Horace Mann, an early educator.

Mr. Saine, who has researched old school board minutes and other records, said he found no evidence of how or why the buildings received their names.

The only discussion he saw concerned Westwood Elementary, which was at first called Cable Road School until some residents petitioned the school board in the 1960s asking that it be renamed Westwood.

Mr. Saine said the district may want to come up with some general names, like Westwood, because he doesn't know how it will decide after whom to name the five new elementaries.

“Once they start to name them, I'm sure not everyone in the community will be happy,” he said. “You would have to be kind of careful. If you name it after some administrator, some wouldn't like it. They'd say, `Why that lady or that guy? Why name it after them?'”

Of course, in some cases, it might not seem fair to keep the old name.

Students at Jefferson Elementary, for example, will go to a school built on the same site. Youngsters from Whittier, which is to be closed, will go to the new Jefferson building too.

“How do you name it Jefferson and forget Whittier?” Mr. Saine asked.

Those decisions will be up to the committee, ultimately up to the school board.

Mr. Boedicker said he's convinced residents are so thrilled with their soon-to-be-built schools that they won't mind what names hang on the signs out front.

“I know people in our community are very excited for the most part to have the opportunity to send their children to new buildings,” he said.

Of the $104 million project, $93 million is being paid through the Ohio School Facilities Commission, which helps public school districts improve their buildings. All the schools will be air-conditioned, handicapped-accessible, and wired for the latest technology.

Mr. Boedicker said construction has begun on the West Middle School and the Jefferson and Washington-McKinley buildings. Those three schools are scheduled to open in the fall of 2002. Site work is being done for the high school, which will be built on the city's east side next to the existing high school football stadium.

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