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Dating back to 1856, the Lima City Schools has a very rich history filled with interesting and important stories. Each day, we continue to build on that history and the place we hold in our community.


The Beginning

Before public schools were a part of Lima, many children were educated at home. Some affluent families sent their children to schools in the east. Others attended subscription schools, where parents paid the teacher according to the number of subjects their child took. In a typical 13-week term, a teacher earned $3 for each student taking reading, spelling, writing and arithmetic.
Schoolmasters such as John Ward taught about 25 students in Lima’s old log courthouse in 1832. By 1852, the demand for schools was growing. The Lima Academy flourished as a private school until 1856.
In 1853 the Ohio Legislature passed an act for “the better regulations of schools in cities and towns.” In the spring of 1856, a local election was held to adopt the state legislature’s proposed organization of public schools. With its local passage, public schools – Lima Union Schools – began in September 1856.


First Public School Classes

Lima’s first public school classes were held in the basement of the Methodist Episcopal Church (now Trinity United Methodist Church) at the corner of Market and West streets.
In 1858, the first Lima school building cost $20,000. The three-story, 12-room building, later called the West Building, stood on the square of High, North, Pierce and McDonel streets. In 1860, a four-year high school course was adopted. The first Lima High School commencement was held on June 3, 1864 and district enrollment reached more than 500.


East Building

By 1871, the school system had grown too large for one building and the East Building was built on North Pine Street for $46,000. The three-story brick building had 14 rooms, an assembly room, and offices for the principal and superintendent. The high school was held on the upper floors and elementary grades on the lower floor.
With the discovery of oil in the 1880s, Lima grew rapidly. People came from all over. For the Lima Union Schools, it meant more students and the need for more buildings. Enrollment reached 1800, with 30 or more on the faculty.


Building Boom

Lincoln School at Vine and Elizabeth streets was the third public school building built in 1882. It was an eight-room brick building. In 1888, Irving School was added at Grand Avenue and North Elizabeth Streets and 1890 saw the completion of Lowell and Washington Elementary Schools, on West Spring Street and South Pine Street, respectively.
The four-room Whittier School was built on Reese Avenue in 1891 and expanded to six rooms in 1905. Longfellow School was built at the corner of Shawnee and Market Streets in 1892. 
In 1897, Emerson School was built on North Jefferson Street and Solar Avenue School, Richardson School and McKinley School followed at the turn of the century. The four-room Whittier School was built on Reese Avenue in 1891 and expanded to six rooms in 1905. 


Tornado Destroys East Building

On September 24, 1898, a tornado destroyed the East Building on North Pine Street. Historical accounts recall the damage: “A tornado mushroomed through the sky and struck the East Building. The two thousand pound bell hurled through three floors into the basement. If the storm had occurred on a school day, 300 children would have been crushed. The building was demolished beyond repair.”
After that, high school classes were held in the Holland Building on the southeast corner of Main and High Streets. Elementary classes were held wherever room was available until Garfield School was built at the former East Building site in 1899.


Lima High School

At the turn of the century a new high school was needed and controversy brewed over where to locate it. The Board of Education decided to locate the high school between McDonel and Pierce streets with the building facing High Street. 
Lima High School, later to become known as Central High School, took 182 days to complete. The building opened in 1905 and cost $75,000. Today the Federal Building occupies that site.

Franklin Elementary School occupied the North Street portion of the Central High School site although the schools were not joined for another 20 plus years.
Horace Mann School at Jameson and Rice Avenues was originally The Lima College. In 1908 the Lima City Board of Education purchased it to use as an elementary school.


South High School

The population in Lima continued to grow. Lima High School was overcrowded and residents in the south part of Lima wanted a high school nearby for their children.
In 1917, the South High School building cost $247,000 to construct. Architect Thomas McLaughlin dedesigned South High School and other Lima landmarks including the Hughes-Russell mansion - part of the West Market Street Golden Block in the late 1800s and now home to the YWCA - Memorial Hall, and Lima Stadium between North Street and Bellefontaine Avenue. McLaughlin was a Lima Schools and Columbia graduate.


Cross Town Rivalries

The Central High School building expanded in 1917 with the addition of an administration building, auditorium and gymnasium. This expansion connected Central to the Franklin Elementary building.
Six years later, building programs started again. In 1923, Jefferson and Roosevelt Schools were built and in 1924 construction started on a new Faurot School. The first Faurot School was an eight-room mansion acquired from the Baxter family, relatives of Lima millionaire Benjamin Faurot.
With two high schools, cross-town rivalries were sure to happen. The first South/Central football game was played in Lima Stadium on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1936. Lima Stadium was dedicated that day and recently has undergone many improvements.

Lima Stadium was built through the Work Progress Administration with the Board of Education paying 55 percent and the federal government the remainder. The total cost of the construction was $63,855.13. In March 2002, Lima Stadium was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. A renovation project began in 2014, followed by the school board voting to change its name to Spartan Stadium. It was an effort to continue the momentum of a renewed Spartan pride and spirit.


Major Building Project Begins

Education continued to grow and improve in Lima and the district’s construction phase began again with Superintendent Gordon Humbert. In 1947, Lima residents approved a $3 million bond issue to replace seven schools with six new ones. 
Lincoln, Irving, Horace Mann, Lowell, and Emerson Schools were replaced. Washington and McKinley Schools were combined into one new building.



Lincoln, Lowell and Irving were dedicated in 1950, the rest of the schools in 1951. Located on Calumet Avenue, Washington-McKinley was the largest of the six new elementary schools.
Next on the agenda—the construction of Lima Senior High School. For 10 years, the Board of Education studied the idea of combining Central and South High Schools’ students. The recommendation was to build on the 10-acre tract of land off of Pierce Street, land already owned by the schools.


Original Lima Senior High School

In 1951, voters went to the polls to decide the fate of a $3.5 million high school. The levy narrowly passed. Some residents requested a recount of 13 controversial precincts, but because all precincts would have had to be recounted, the judge ruled no recount.
The South Tigers and the Central Dragons were soon to become the Lima Senior Spartans. Lima Senior High School opened in 1955 featuring 63 classrooms, a gym seating 4,200, an auditorium seating 1,100 and a cafeteria seating 600. It cost $3,466,250 to construct and dedication ceremonies were held in August 1955.
Lima’s school enrollment continued to grow. In 1955 there were 14 elementary buildings and South and Central had become junior high schools. Combined with the new Lima Senior High School, total enrollment in the district was 9,275 students. Another elementary school was needed on Lima’s west side. Westwood Elementary School on Cable Road opened in 1960. It was the first new building under the Pay-As-You-Go-Plan approved by voters in 1957.


Central Fire

In 1962, Edison Elementary School, joined to South Junior High, was dedicated. Whittier and Irving Schools added new additions in 1963. That same year, an educational center was built on Calumet Avenue at a cost of $150,000, relocating the superintendent’s office from Central Junior High.
By 1965, the district had reached enrollment of almost 11,000 students. That school year also marked a change in leadership and Dr. Earl McGovern became the new superintendent.
Dr. McGovern was in office a short time when on February 27, 1966, Central burned. The cafeteria and 31 classrooms were destroyed. Seventy-two fire fighters battled the 1.4 million dollar blaze for seven hours. Volunteers carried school records and other salvageable goods from the building.
The blaze has been known as the fire that “changed Lima.” The district decided not to rebuild Central, but rather built two new junior high schools four years later.


New Junior High Schools

Immediately after the fire, Lima Senior went on triple sessions to accommodate all of the students. Some students attended school at 6 a.m., others at night. The Board needed to act. In November 1966, voters approved a levy to build three new schools and construct additions at four others. Faurot, Lowell, Jefferson, and Roosevelt added new additions. Whittier’s original building was demolished and the 1963 addition was connected to a new addition.

Two new junior high schools were built—Lima West Junior High School at College and Hazel Avenues in 1968, and Lima North Junior High School at O’Connor and West Streets in 1969. Each building cost about $1.3 million to construct.
Building construction started again in 1971. The state approved matching funds for a $1.4 million vocational wing at Lima Senior. Over the next 25 years, some of the school buildings saw remodeling and Lima Stadium underwent renovations including a new all weather track.


New Construction

New school construction was not on the agenda until 1999 when Lima was among the first districts to become eligible for new school buildings through the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC). The OSFC offered to fund approximately 90 percent of the cost.
In November 1999, a 4.15 mill bond issue passed with the support of 67 percent of the district’s voters. In addition to the 4.15 mill bond issue, the district’s voters also approved a .95 mill bond for the purposes of site acquisition and building an auditorium. The second bond was necessary to include an auditorium in the new high school. Through the state, funds were only available for a combination cafeteria/auditorium. With the extensive arts programs in the Lima City Schools, the second bond was proposed and supported by 62 percent of the district’s voters.
Through the building project, all of the district’s buildings were renovated, converted or replaced. After many discussions with the OSFC, the final plans were to renovate Lima North Middle School, convert Lima West Middle School to an elementary school, and build four new elementary schools, two new middle schools and a new high school.


New School Names

In October 2001, a "Name That School" event was held. Over 200 suggestions were received and opinions on a district-wide mascot and colors were gathered. From the suggestions, the committee offered five themes with several names for each theme: Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame Inductees; Famous Ohioans; Ohio Presidents; Famous Americans and Patriotic.
The recommendation included keeping the names of the middle schools and high school the same. In January 2002, the Board of Education voted to accept the Patriotic theme and named the elementary schools: Freedom Elementary School on Calumet Avenue; Heritage Elementary School on College Avenue; Independence Elementary School on Metcalf Street; Liberty Elementary School on Kibby Street; and Unity Elementary School on East Third Street.
The Board also approved adding Lima to the name of each middle school. In December 2001, the Board had approved the Spartan as the mascot for all schools in the district and scarlet and grey as the colors.
While the community was working on school names, people volunteered to make the school closings and openings special. 


Homecoming Celebration

On Sunday, May 5, 2002, the Lima City Schools held a Homecoming Celebration. The schools were open in the afternoon and a short closing ceremony was held on the front lawn of South Middle School at 4:30 p.m. with music by the Lima Senior Symphonic Band. A balloon launch was held at the closing of the ceremony. Attendees launched 500 balloons, in all the colors of the district’s schools, as a way to remember the history of the district and embrace the new era.
At Lima Senior, the documentary, "Recalling the Past — Shaping the Future," was shown in the auditorium and many schools made the day special for their guests with scrapbooks and photos. A commemorative booklet, featuring all of the schools in the district, was presented to guests. Over 2,000 people attended the Homecoming Celebration.


Building Boom Continues

On June 3, 2002, three groundbreakings were held for Lima South Middle School, Lima Senior High School and the conversion of the former West Middle School into the new Heritage Elementary School.
Lima South Middle School sits on the former South High School site and incorporates architectural features of the original building. Almost 200 parcels were purchased to acquire the 38.5-acre site for the new Lima Senior just east of Lima Stadium. The site also includes the property where the East Building stood in the late 1800s. A few hundred people gathered for the Lima Senior groundbreaking that was attended by Ohio Governor Bob Taft and many local and state officials.
On August 26, 2002, three new schools opened in Lima and the Lima North Middle School renovation was complete. 
Freedom combined students from part of Edison and Washington-McKinley Elementary Schools and Unity combined students from part of Edison and Whittier Elementary Schools. Lima South Middle School houses the middle school Science-Technology Magnet Program and all middle schools now serve grades five through eight.
In December 2002, the conversion of Heritage Elementary School was completed. Heritage combined students from Horace Mann, Westwood and the elementary Arts Magnet Program.
On June 3, 2003, exactly one year after the groundbreaking for Lima Senior and the anniversary of Lima’s first commencement, the last two groundbreakings of this building project were scheduled for Independence and Liberty Elementary Schools. Due to inclement weather, the groundbreakings were postponed until Friday, June 6.
Independence is on the former Irving site and combines students from Irving and Emerson Elementary Schools. Liberty is on the land between the former Lincoln Elementary School and the original Lima Senior High School. It combines students from Faurot and Lowell Elementary Schools.
In August 2004, Lima South Middle School, Lima Senior High School and Independence Elementary School opened. The new Lima Senior High School is 284,861 square feet complete with a state-of-the-art auditorium, media center and gymnasium for a cost of approximately $35,000,000.
Liberty Elementary School opened in January 2005 marking the completion of the most recent building project.
In the 2006-2007 school year, the Lima City School District celebrates its sesquicentennial with all new and renovated buildings.



The most recent change came just a few years ago with a district-wide reorganization. A kindergarten through eighth-grade arts magnet building opened at Liberty Elementary School and South became home to the kindergarten throught eighth-grade science and technology magnet program.

The district's administrative offices, now called the Dr. Earl McGovern Educational Center, was also moved to a wing at South. The former educational center was closed.

The district's middle schools also saw a change. Lima North is now home to fifth and sixth-graders and West home to seventh and eighth-graders. 

In early 2013, the school board voted to move Lima Senior High School away from the small-schools concept, which it had been doing for 10 years.

When the 2013-14 school year began, Lima Senior returned to one high school, reinvigorating the Spartan spirit and pride.

That same year the district kicked off a $1.8 million renovation project of the stadum. Completed in time for the 2014-15 football season, the school board renamed it Spartan Stadium. It was an effort to continue the momentum of a growing Spartan spirit and pride. 

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