Remembering the Old School
Waterville schools changed over the years as did the educational needs of society. The one room schools run by a single teacher gradually changed into a graded school system with multiple teachers. The 1852 school (Herb Mericle House) was a 2 room school with primary school downstairs and secondary upstairs. The expanding population of course had an effect on school needs. The school system was graded into primary, intermediate and high school departments of four years each in 1884 and 1885 resulting in the first high school commencement in 1885.
The 1886 school building, the first on the site of the village square, was designed by Edward O. Fallis a Toledo architect and was a source of great pride to Watervillians . A twelve year program was offered in 1885, but changed back to only ten in 1895 to 1898, then back to a twelve year school again by 1898. Since the one room schools in the rural areas could not offer high school level instruction a busing system was started, horse drawn at first but soon motorized with rise of the automobile in the early 1900s. The last school on this site, the one so many folks attended and remember, started as an addition to the 1886 school in 1923 which included the combination auditorium/gymnasium.
A rapidly expanding population and increasing expectation that nearly all should have twelve years of education had pushed the old building over its capacity. This more modern looking addition (see photo) soon also became crowded and sometimes portable classrooms were used. Two of these portable classrooms eventually became the home of the Waterville American Legion on Mechanic Street. At one time the Columbian house was rented for classroom space. In 1930 the beautiful, but old and inadequate 1886 building was torn down and a new structure, still attached to the 1923 addition, was built in its place. The school at this time became the building so many “older” residents spent twelve years attending and our younger folks remember as their grade school. Now it has followed its 1886 predecessor, becoming crumbling, old and an inadequate building for modern education and, alas, it is no more.
Ed. Note: For the nostalgic and the history minded, the Waterville Historical Society has preserved a few artifacts from the old school which will be on display at the Robbins House Museum this year. There are also many photographs preserved at the Wakeman Archives.