The 1977 graduating class of Xenia High School has the distinction — if you can call it that — of never having attended classes on a full-day schedule in a high school building.
As ninth graders, they had toured the Xenia High School building with great anticipation, but the April 3, 1974 tornado changed their lives. The high school was destroyed as was Central Junior High and Warner Junior High was heavily damaged. Our daughter was one of those students who say that she “never went to high school” but instead spent six years in junior high.
Those students in Beavercreek and Fairborn probably remember as well, because the Xenia students were bussed to those schools in the late afternoon that spring to complete the 1974 school term. When the students in the other buildings left for the day – the Xenia students moved in – but of course, they could leave no books behind, since the lockers were utilized by the regular students. All students and teachers had been given a cloth tote bag for books, etc. Each day, teachers had to be sure to erase anything left on the blackboards, since they were borrowing a classroom. Teachers had to utilize the materials on hand in the classrooms, without the benefits of those items and bulletin boards they had previously enjoyed.
Elementary students at McKinley and Simon Kenton doubled up with other elementary schools in Xenia for the remainder of the year. The next fall, they moved into trailers set up as classrooms until the new buildings were completed.
In the fall, the new sophomore class members, along with the other upper classmen began to attend school at Warner Junior High. Repairs had been made over the summer and a new gym was constructed, fondly known to the students as the “tin gym.”
Those in the three upper levels went to Warner Junior High in the morning from 7:20 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Rather than the usual eight periods each day, there were seven with class periods lasting 42 minutes each, a cut of three minutes per period, The students were allowed to bring snacks to eat during fifth period, since no lunches were served. Some of the students had of course, been students at Warner and knew the layout, those who had attended Central learned to get around quickly.
The junior high students had changes as well. The Central and Warner Junior High students went to the same building in the afternoon. Those three years they attended what became known as Xenia Junior High School. Previously, there had been some competition between the two junior high schools in sports, but this year, it was all one school.
Of course, the challenges were many, but students and teachers made do and school went on in a fairly normal fashion.
The Class of 1977 anticipated and watched as the new senior and junior high buildings were constructed, hoping to be the first class to graduate from the new building, but it was not to be since the construction of the new school took three years.
With the fact that the high school students were leaving the building about the time the junior high students arrived, the parking lots were full of cars, teachers and students needed parking spaces, busses came and went dropping off the junior high students and picking up the senior high, and of course parents were doing the same.
This also challenged the high school students who desired extra-curricular activities, since the building was occupied by the junior high students, but alternative locations were obtained, and school went on pretty much as usual.
Many of the high school students liked being dismissed at a relatively early hour. They found getting jobs was a little easier, and they had more time for homework or leisure activities.
Harold Hanlin was the high school guidance counselor during this time and was quoted as saying, “I’d say these kids are more mature, because of the time pressure, they have taken a more businesslike approach to school. There has been little discipline problem, simply because they haven’t had spare time to get in trouble. They may have lost a little academically as measured by tests but they have gained an ability to adjust and improvise.”
In spite of it all the 360 page yearbook tells of wonderful activities and fellowship this class enjoyed. Sports activities continued as usual. The football team ended the season with a record 6-3-1.Many of the other teams had great success too.
This statement in the Class of 1977 yearbook sums it up well: “The three years at high school will be ones we will never forget. We spent all of them in a school not designated for a high school, but made the best of our situation and didn’t let our spirit and pride fade away.”
The years have slipped by and the class of 1977 with its more than 500 students will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in the spring. In spite of all the challenges, this class had made its mark on the world. The former students are scattered around the globe with a variety of different careers. They can certainly can be listed as a class of achievers.
Congratulations on your 40th anniversary Class of 1977!
Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.