By Susan Tebben
The Austintown community is saying goodbye to another of its historic school buildings, as the Frank Ohl Intermediate School hallways empty for the school year.
On May 10, fourth- and fifth-grade students, alumni and staff will observe a farewell ceremony for the school that opened in 1961.
“I’ve only been here for five years, but there’s so much history in this place,” said Principal Bethany Batdorff.
When Frank Ohl school opened, it was a junior high, with seventh and eighth grades. In 1968, when a new high school opened, the building became a middle school housing fifth- through eighth-grade students. When the new Austintown Middle School opened several years ago, it became an intermediate school for fourth and fifth grades.
At its opening in 1961, it had an enrollment of 1,300 students under the administration of Principal A. Glenn Snell, according to documents from the Austintown Historical Society.
“I remember the choir concerts, the band concerts, and I would play along with the choir,” said Denny Rice, now principal at Woodside Elementary.
Rice spent a total of 13 years at Frank Ohl — as a sixth-grade teacher, then an assistant principal and then head principal as the school changed from a middle school to an intermediate school.
The school was named after Frank L. Ohl, who was instrumental in the changing the name of Austintown Centralized School, on Mahoning Avenue, to Fitch School in 1923.
Ohl was described as a “devoted school follower” in school board meeting minutes from that year, when he brought to the board a petition that had been signed by 125 residents to rename the school in honor of John H. Fitch, the man who had donated the land where the former Austintown Middle School sits. The former middle school building was just sold for $2.5 million to a development company and likely will be demolished, according to district officials.
On Jan. 4, 1923, Ohl and the other petitioners won out as the board changed and directed the architects to put the name on new east and west additions that were under construction, according to the minutes.
Ohl was from a native Austintown family, with his father, Charles Ohl, born in Austintown in 1877. Charles Ohl went on to study at Ohio Northern University and became a lawyer.
An addition was made to the school in 1962.
In the 2008-09 school year, the school opened as Frank Ohl Intermediate School, with only grades four and five in the building. Enrollment was 725.
The technology has changed throughout the years, Rice said, but the uniqueness of the building has nothing to do with the bricks and mortar.
“The teachers and students are what makes it unique,” said Rice, who will retire at the end of the school year, his 39th in the district.
The May 10 ceremony will include a raffle of memorabilia from the building, Batdorff said.