GREEN — Reconstruction of the nearly destroyed 1885 Lichtenwalter one-room schoolhouse, which had become a learning center for Green third-graders for more than a decade, is expected to begin soon, Planning Director Wayne Wiethe said.
Heavily damaged by arsonists from Akron and Springfield Township on Aug. 9, 2016, the schoolhouse, which had been showcased in the city’s Boettler Park for several years, is soon to rise again after city council approved a $435,900 contract with Cavanaugh Building of Akron on Tuesday.
The base bid and one alternate totaled $397,000 plus up to $38,900 to cover contingencies if needed, Wiethe explained.
The insurance carrier already has provided $303,000 of the total, Wiethe said. He added that insurance could cover as much as $86,000 more if rebuilding is completed without additions such as a restroom and other amenities.
Staci Schweikert, secretary of the Green Historical Society, said the schoolhouse has been an asset to Boettler Park and will continue — with the aid of volunteer teachers who use McGuffy Readers and feather quills — to instruct about 400 Green third-graders annually in how their predecessors were educated in the late 1800s.
She estimated more than 5,000 pupils have experienced the program, which involves a full day of learning from volunteers dressed in 19th century costumes and using teaching tools available in the late 1800s.
“We have been lucky that we have been able to continue the program,” Schweikert said. “For the last three years, we have borrowed the Jackson schoolhouse through a good relationship with them.
“We are very excited [about the rebuild]. We think it’s a good proposal to get it rebuilt and get us back here in Green. We have some additional things we can do with the building, but that will come down the road.”
Councilman Stephen Dyer, who questioned why no fire suppression was included in the plan, was told by Schweikert that a wet or dry [chemical] fire suppression system “would be very difficult for our archival material.
“An archival suppression system is an incredibly expensive system that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I don’t think we need or merit that.
“With the situation that happened in 2016, if we would have had a camera system or an elaborate ring doorbell system, we volunteers could have had the sheriff there within minutes.
Schweikert added Wednesday, “A fire suppression system saves lives but not buildings.”
She also noted that with second-reading passage, construction is expected to begin right away with the hope that it will be completed in time for third-grade classes to be back in Green's one-room schoolhouse for one day each next spring.
Schweikert said the Jackson schoolhouse also will be available next spring for Green pupils if needed.
Resident Steve Kotler told the council the schoolhouse could provide a groundswell of other uses as well as pupils receiving a real look at how their predecessors were educated in the late 19th century.
Volunteer teacher Mary Kocsis of Canal Fulton stressed the importance of rebuilding for the students and community.
“This [experience] will stay with them,” she said, suggesting that possibly the schoolhouse could be opened to other nearby school districts and communities in the future.
George W. Davis can be reached at email@example.com