Memories flood back as Franklin school is demolished

The sign in front of the former Franklin Junior High School seems like a grave marker “1921-2021 Changing lives for a century” — as the school’s flag is flying at half-staff.

This week a demolition crew started tearing down the century-old Franklin Junior High School on East Sixth Street as part of the new construction project for a new state-of-the-art Franklin High School. A crew had already completed the asbestos remediation in the building that allowed a crew from Green City Demolition begin taking down the building.

ExploreFranklin schools purchase additional land around new high school campus

“A lot of the building could be down by next week,” said Superintendent Michael Sander.

There is fencing already erected around the former Franklin Junior High, and the demolition is expected to be completed by the second week of January 2022.

Sander said bricks from the front of the former junior high building will be set aside for residents and alumni to pick up during the demolition process. He said the bricks will be piled up in front of the bus garage.

Sander has told the Dayton Daily News that “buying land gives us room to grow if the district’s anticipated enrollment increase requires us to expand. For now, we’ll clear the properties and use the space as practice fields.”

Once the new high school is completed, the building on East Fourth Street will be renovated and become the new middle school. The new high school is expected to open in fall 2023 with the middle school opening in fall 2025. The three new elementary schools will be constructed at the current Gerke, Schenck and Hunter sites.

The current Franklin Junior High Building opened in 1921 as the East Building and housed both junior and senior high students. District officials said additions were made in 1932, 1948, and 1952. In 1969, the current high school opened on East Fourth Street, and students in grades 10 through 12 moved to that campus. Ninth grade classes began attending the current high school building in the fall of 1982.

ExploreEngineers: Roundabout best, safest option at new Franklin High School, Community Park

Some former students that went to high school or junior high school there said it was sad to see the building being demolished, but times change.

“It’s sad,” said Liz Buchanan, a member of the class of 1958. “I have a lot of good memories there. I understand you have to go forward and have to move on but another school won’t last 100 years. No way.”

Buchanan still keeps tabs on her classmates who gather each year in addition to the class reunion every five years.

“I’m already getting calls about getting bricks,” she said. “It hard to believe it’s being torn down but it will be an improvement.”

During tours of the building at the end of last school year, Buchanan said the solid oak and the marble inside the building were still in pretty shape.

Local businessman and former Franklin Mayor Jim Mears, a 1957 FHS graduate, said that’s where he met his future wife and where he played football and basketball.

“I had a lot of great times as a junior and a senior at that school,” he said.

While the location for the new high school was not his first choice, Mears said the Board of Education and the superintendent have done well with the building project.

Mears remembers hanging crepe paper to help decorate the gym for prom. He said on the third floor, there were doors you could open to look into the auditorium that had a balcony. Mears also remembered being with friends and playing sports there.

“You can’t live in yesterday,” he said. “You need to move on in education. The world has gotten smaller with the advent of computers and kids need an education to be competitive in the world market.”

Peggy Darragh-Jeromos, a member of the class of 1975, went to junior high classes in the building and went to high school in the building on East Fourth Street that opened in 1969.

She said the first days of junior high was a challenge, learning to navigate the multiple floors and building additions after attending elementary school in a one-floor building with straight hallways.

“Back then there were wooden desks attached to the floors,” said Darragh-Jeromos, who is executive director of the Franklin Area Chamber of Commerce. “I loved the auditorium’s acoustics and seating. It was a nice space for concerts and plays.”

She said music classes were held in the old basketball gym that was a pit. The last time Darragh-Jeromos was in the building, she noticed the indentations in the marble from the thousands shoes that walked the halls for a century.

“I’m sad to see it go, but I am glad a new school is coming,” she said.

About the Author