Change is hard, but necessary

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school books

This past week we attended the ribbon cutting for a brand new school complex. We joined our community for the open house, giving us our first chance to tour the new building.

We watched the expressions of our own two young grandchildren who will begin their journey there in September, one in her second year of preschool, her brother starting first grade.

The excitement was perhaps tinged with that overwhelming realization of largess that can scarcely be processed at first sight. That same emotion was mirrored in the expressions of adults among us, as well.

“This is OUR school!” one junior-high-aged girl exclaimed as she passed us, adding to a friend, “Can you believe it?” I think those same words were echoing in many heads as we took it all in.

Progress is necessary, even though there are many who fight it. It was in the 1960s when two small rural, rival schools merged to form Hillsdale, with a new school built for grades 9-12. All three of those aging school buildings have continued in use, and some will say they are good enough. Those who work in the schools say it is a constant battle to meet necessary modern-day demands and safety issues.

Our school district was lucky to have received revenue from a pipeline project which cut through this area a few years ago. According to roverpipelinefacts.com, the Rover Pipeline route spans approximately 713 miles originating in southeastern Ohio, western West Virginia, and southwestern Pennsylvania. It continues north across Ohio to an interconnection in Defiance, then crosses into Michigan.

Quoted in the Ashland Times-Gazette in 2020 was Hillsdale school superintendent Steve Dickerson: “I researched, spoke with some great people — attorneys, people who deal with loans. I had enough information and felt good enough to understand that Hillsdale was going to receive a large sum of money… We wouldn’t have to go to taxpayers for a dime.”

However, the money the district receives from the pipeline — $8 million in 2020 — depreciates 3% every year for 30 years. Using this information, the district formulated a 20-year loan-repayment plan for its new building.

Change is often hard to accept. I have vague childhood memories of the era in which our two community schools merged into one, listening to adults around our kitchen table. It was a very sore subject for many.

The new school seems to have evoked that same response from some. An impressive new school brings excitement and growth along with positive real estate values for those in the district, while providing a secure, one-campus building set on 55 acres for new generations. Others see it as just too much. The pipeline money helped make the decision, though some will still revolt against it.

My own grandmother, long gone by the time these two school districts merged, had once dreamed of teaching in the one-room schoolhouse she had attended. It closed the year before she could teach, with students going to a new school, one which will now close.

This complex is an incredible, progressive step for our rural community. As tough as it is to part with the past, generations before us have proven this is an ongoing theme of humanity. We must let go of what we’ve known if we wish to jump forward to progressive, new possibilities. We will find our footing as we make the new a part of our everyday world, and be glad in it.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.

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