The obligatory Sylvania Southview Post

Here’s another story of the further historical adventures of the good old Sylvania City Schools district, and how they became the first Toledo suburban school district (and still the only one, as far as I know) to have two high schools.

A previous post explored that how, in the 1950s, the Sylvania school district had two problems: not enough money and too many students, so much (or so little) of either that in 1956, the district had to close for a stretch as it had simply run out of money after a levy failed in November. The district had about 4,100 students that year.

That managed to resolve itself when residents passed a levy. But levies don’t stop population growth, and the need for a new high school became apparent. Burnham High School, which opened in 1929, was becoming overcrowded, so the district put forth a a $2.3 million building bond issue in 1959 that would not only build a new high school across Ten Mile Creek on Silica Drive but add fourteen classrooms at three elementary schools and convert Burnham to a junior high school, according to superintendent Frank Dick, who later would find bigger fish to fry as superintendent of Toledo’s school district.

That worked for a while. But even when Arbor Hills opened in 1970, which allowed use of Burnham again for high school students, the overcrowing at Sylvania High School continued.

So in 1973, the board authorized the purchase of 50 acres for $180,000 on Sylvania Ave., between King and McCord roads, in what was then a mostly rural area, for a new high school, after determining it was impossible to expand at the current site.

“Currently, all ninth graders and part of the 10th graders attend the Burnham building, referred to as the North High School. It was the high school for many years, but when the Silica Drive structure was built, Burnham became a junior high. But in 1970, overcrowding of the Silica building caused Burnham to be put to use again for Senior high school classes,” The Blade wrote, explaining it better than I could.

Construction of the new high school was dependent on passage of a 23-year, $5.2 million bond issue. It passed, in November of 1973, but just barely – by a margin of 81 votes, 3,818 to 3,737.

Construction started quickly and by Sept., 1976, the building was ready to go.

Well, almost.

  • A sewer line wasn’t ready for some time and sewage was stored in cement tanks and trucked off daily to a sewer connection.
  • A kitchen equipment supplier went out of business, so there was no food. It had to be cooked and brought over from Northview.
  • A lot of supplies had to be brought over from Northview/Burnham – books, records, equipment, you name it. A whole lot, apparently. “We didn’t realize at first this would be a problem. We had to ask staff and students, or anybody, to round up all the boxes they could,” according to superintendent Dr. Richard Ziehmer. Owens-Illinois came through, however.

As an aside, when contracts were awarded in March, 1975, they came in about $1 million below estimates. The board decided to take almost all the money left over and build the Sylvania Natatorium.

Described as “brown and orange on the inside, shaped like a fat H” by The Blade’s Hank Harvey (accurate), he wrote that school officials were as proud as new parents over the new 179,000-square-foot, carpeted and climate-controlled building.

“It’s not only the new building we’re proud of, but we’re looking forward to a closer and better relationship with the students as a result of it,” according to Southview’s first principal, Donald Bahna.

The story’s headline, “Sylvania’s Southview High Awaits First Bell,” was only slightly incorrect: Southview didn’t have any bells. It used a high-pitch tone to denote class periods, which in my view was much better than the Muzak they played between classes at Arbor Hills.

Southview has a few famous graduates, according to its Wikipedia page:

  • Khary Campbell, former NFL player
  • Eric Kripke, television writer, director, and producer
  • Griff Whalen, former NFL player
  • Charles Latshaw, orchestra conductor, music director of the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra and the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra
  • Nate Hall, linebacker for the Tennessee Titans

Hey wait, Charlotte Kemp isn’t on there? Also known as Cleo Helmkamp, she was a 1979 grad who went on to fame and I’ll let The Blade’s headline do the talking – She Moved From Sylvania to Centerfold – and just leave it at that. (Miss December 1982).

In my view, opening a new high school is a tough task for any district. No other district in the Toledo area (outside Toledo, of course) has more than one even almost fifty years later. You’ve got to create traditions. Pick a mascot (cougar). Pick some colors (brown and orange, ugh) in a building that was almost (at least when I went there, which was the 1977-78 school year) totally devoid of character. Burnham was ancient, and Northview was 60s-funky, if you know what I mean, but Southview was a bland building surrounded by empty fields. That’s not the case anymore – development moved in, as it always does, and where there once fields and junkyards there are now Kroger’s, libraries, residential neighborhoods: the area has changed a lot. It’s all grown up now.

And Southview has grown with it. It has its own football stadium – no more playing home games at Northview! The football team won the state Division II title in 2008. And it looks like they got rid of that stupid rock everybody used to paint out front.

I’d post pictures if I had any, but I don’t. And I’m definitely not going to scan in my yearbook.

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