Batavia’s school buildings: Part 2

The Clermont Sun is publishing a series of historic vignettes concerning the Village of Batavia pursuant to next year’s bicentennial celebration. Historian Richard Crawford tells here about the school buildings in the village.

By Richard Crawford

Last week, we recounted the history of the Batavia school buildings downtown on Broadway, up until the decision to build a new high school on Bauer Avenue.

After the Ford Motor Company opened its transmission plant in the Batavia School District in 1980, the district became quite wealthy for a short time.

As the elementary school on Broadway was crowded at the time, the Board of Education used much of this money to extend the school’s facilities. The older and newer buildings on Broadway were joined by a corridor, which also contained the administrative offices for the elementary school. As then required by law, an elevator was added to make the entire building accessible to the handicapped. Finally, a new library a cafeteria and kindergarten classrooms were added to the building.

As enrollment at the school continued to increase, two modular classroom units, each containing two classrooms, were added to the school for the 1994 school year.

The Bauer Avenue site

Because there was no more room to expand school facilities on Broadway, a search was begun place for a new high school. The site selected was a 19-acre site at the end of Bauer Avenue on the southern edge of the village. It was owned by the Auxier family. After a seismic study was completed to determine that the soil was satisfactory for the building, the board purchased the land for $25,000.

The plans for the school were drawn by architect Fred Pressler. His plans called for a classroom building containing 12 classrooms and a teachers’ workroom, an administration building with offices, library, cafeteria, kitchen and music room, and a two-story building with a gymnasium of the ground floor and an industrial arts rooms along with locker and furnace rooms in the basement. The administration and gym buildings were joined into one building, and the classrooms were joined to it with a covered walkway.

In November of 1964, votes passed a bond issue of $586,000 to build and equip the building. Joe Zobay became the general contractor for the project

When the excavation for the gymnasium was being done, it was discovered that the soil in that area was soft and wet. Because the soil had been professionally tested and said to be satisfactory, this condition was completely unexpected, and the contractor nearly lost a bulldozer in the swamp-like conditions. The problem was eventually solved by drilling 92 holes, each about a foot in diameter, down to bedrock, and filling the holes with concrete, so that the gym is actually supported by the rock, rather than the soil. The solution worked, but it cost so much that most of the funds intended to equip the building went into solving the soil problem. The high school moved to Bauer Ave. in the fall of 1966.

With the coming of the Ford plant and increased enrollment, several additions were made to the Bauer Avenue building, with Gerald Harley and Robert Gerding designing the plans. Phase 1 consisted of a new wing, extending from the back of the classroom building out toward the athletic field. It contained a biology lab with greenhouse, two rooms for business education and several other classrooms. Quantum Construction entered a bid of $292,490 and got the job. The wing was occupied late in 1983.

Quantum Construction also submitted the low bid for Phase 2, which was a much larger project and was begun about the same time Phase 1 was completed. It consisted of a two-story wing to the administration building extending out into the parking lot. The lower floor provided additional space for the industrial arts department and the upper floor the weight room, an art room and several other classrooms. Also included in Phase 2 were elevators and ramps, making the entire building available to the handicapped, and a hallway joining the classroom building to the administration building and gym.

Phase 3 consisted of a new library and several smaller rooms built onto the front end of the classroom building and the remodeling of the old library into a suite of rooms for the school district central office. Hartman and Walters were the architect and Hillsmith Construction the contractor for this job, which cost $428,339.

By the spring of 1986, enrollment at the elementary school had grown so rapidly that there was no longer space for the seventh and eighth grades in the buildings on Broadway. Hartman and Walters and Hillsmith Construction planned and built a six-room junior high wing on the front of the classroom building. The plan was to have it occupied at the beginning of the 1986-87 school year, but a soil problem prevented it being occupied during the first few months or the term. The building was then known as Batavia Junior/Senior High School.

When the new high school building opened for the 1997-98 school year, the building on Bauer Avenue became Batavia Middle School, housing grades five through eight.

Upper Main Street

The first building constructed specifically as a school was a brick building on the upper end of Main Street. The building still stands. After it ceased to be a school, it served as a private residence for many years. It is now the Full Gospel Tabernacle.

Richard Crawford, a lifetime student of Clermont County history, has been a journalist for The Clermont Sun and other newspapers. He has written and edited several books of local history.