Where it all started.......
In 1954, only one high school was in existence in the area now called the South-Western City School District. Six boards of education governed the individual school districts serving the area.
The population was rapidly growing in the 1950s as it has continued to do since then. Schools were sorely pressed to meet the needs of students and families. Only the Franklin Local District had a financial base adequate to support the growing demands due to the location of large industrial operations in the years just prior to 1936.
A committee of citizens representing the six districts was formed. Meetings were held with members of various boards of education and with county and state officials. On January 1, 1956, the South-Western Local School District was formed. It was a consolidation of five local systems and one exempted village school system. These were: Grove City-Jackson Exempted Village District, Franklin Township Local District, Prairie Township Local District, Pleasant Township Local District, Urbancrest Village District and Georgesville Local District.
The consolidation was planned for economy of operation; expediency to provide an adequate education for the children in the area; opportunity due to the greater financial base of the newly-combined school district; and the potential for support of a quality school system. Immediately following the creation of the new district, an additional tax levy for operation expenses was requested of voters and was approved. That same year, a bond issue to pay for the construction of additional school buildings was also requested of voters, and was approved.
The years from 1957 to 1960 were tumultuous ones for the district. As a result of population growth, more than 1,000 new students entered the schools. This necessitated a large financial outlay for additional buildings, the employment of additional teachers to staff the new classrooms, and the provision of adequate services.
The tax duplicate of the district also grew rapidly during these years, which was fortunate as the State of Ohio's participation in financing education in the district decreased from newly 40% at the beginning of the period to less than 30% of the necessary costs by the end of the decade. During that same time period, bond issues and tax levies requested of voters were not approved. Costs soared as new students continued to enroll in the district's schools.
In 1958, as the area became more heavily populated, Grove City changed from a village to a chartered city. On August 19, 1959, the Board of Education of the South-Western Local Schools took action as outlined in lay to change the status of the school system and the South-Western City School District was established.
By this time, public sentiment was so enthused by the obvious needs of the schools that a major school operating levy, and shortly thereafter a bond issue for the construction of additional buildings, was approved. At that point, the South-Western City School District started to achieve a reputation as one of Ohio's most outstanding school districts.
Throughout the following seven years, improvements were made within the district: kindergarten and special needs programs began; vitally needed counseling and psychological services were added; and a technical and vocational program was expanded as the Paul C. Hayes Technical Training Center was built.
Changes in laws governing state participation in financing school districts brought a financial squeeze in 1968. During that time, cutbacks in personnel and services brought challenges to the school district. Cutbacks continued in 1969 and 1970 as the percentage of state participation in financing the South-Western City School District continued to decline. Voters turned down request for additional operating levies - even though the school tax rates were very low in comparison with other districts in Franklin County.
Welcome to Grove City High School and Westland High School.....
One of the district's crowning achievements was the opening of Grove City High School and Westland High School during the 1970-1971 school year. These two buildings, planned to house 2,000 students, were built for the amazingly low cost of $18.98 per square foot or a per pupil cost of $1,700. These buildings were classified by architects and educators as "ten years ahead of the times."
In 1998, to stem crisis-level overcrowding, voters passed one of the largest school construction bond issues in the history of Ohio. The issue made way for the construction of four intermediate schools (fifth and sixth grade buildings), a middle school, an additional high school, and a career technical center, as well as renovations to seven existing schools.
The first of the construction projects began with the renovations to the district's current high school auditoriums and fine arts areas. Auditoriums received substantial upgrades with new flooring, seating, lighting, and sound systems; and music education facilities were renovated and expanded. Considerable work was also done to the high school athletic facilities, with stadium expansions/upgrades, and renovations as needed to gymnasiums, lockers rooms, and weight-training facilities. All of the high school athletic fields also benefited from new, high-efficiency lighting.
In the summer of 1999, the district's middle schools also saw significant improvements to auditoriums with new seating, wall coverings, flooring, lighting and sound systems. Once described as 'eyesores,' the auditoriums became functional, welcoming spaces for school and community use.
In January of 2001, the first four of the seven planned schools opened, serving nearly 3,200 fifth and sixth grade students. The addition of the intermediate schools not only eased the overcrowding at the elementary and middle schools, but they became models of cost-effective and efficient educational facilities. When the construction accounts closed on the first four intermediate schools, the completed projects were approximately $913,000 under their collective construction budgets. Not only were the buildings under budget, their capacity was increased by 100 students each in anticipation of higher enrollment than originally expected.
In the summer of 2001, the board of education dedicated Jackson Middle School. Jackson replaced Park Street Middle School (formerly known as the Jackson Township/Grove City High School building). Since 1928, the Jackson Township/Grove City High School building had been a fixture on Park Street. In keeping with district expectations, the project finished at more than $200,000 under its construction budget, with a 100-student greater capacity than originally planned.
And Central Crossing High School was born.....
The district's fourth high school, Central Crossing High School, completed its first year of operation with only freshmen, sophomores, and juniors in the building. Central Crossing High School saw its first graduating class in the Spring of 2004. The opening of the 272,000 square-foot, 1,800-student school provided much-needed space at Franklin Heights, Grove City, and Westland High Schools.
One of the unique community amenities provided at Central Crossing High School was the Central Crossing Branch of the Southwest Public Library system. This facility was available to the community when school was not in session.
Preparing students for the future with the South-Western Career Academy....
The South-Western Career Academy also opened in the fall of 2002. The full-service career technical school serves junior and seniors from the South-Western City School District, offering a wide array of traditional and non-traditional technical courses. Career Academy students access state-of-the-art programming and technology that helps to prepare them for a career and/or college. The South-Western Career Academy is home to the nation's first AAA Sales and Service located within a school.
Construction projects, levies, and facilities renovations......
As a result of well-managed construction projects, taxpayers received one more building than anticipated. From the savings realized from the preceding projects, combined with interest earnings on investments, the district had the resources to convert Paul C. Hayes Technical School into a fifth intermediate school - Hayes Intermediate School.
In 2009, when an operating levy failed, the district closed two of its buildings - Harrisburg Elementary School and Kingston School - as part of its cost containment measures. This was again a very challenging time for the growing district.
Also in 2009, the Auditor of State's office conducted a Performance Audit of the district. The district aggressively pursued the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Performance Audit, streamlining processes and containing costs. The Auditor of State recognized the District for its implementation of the audit recommendations on September 8, 2014.
In March 2012, voters passed a no new millage bond issue to co-fund Segment 1 of the district's overall Ohio Facilities Construction Commission project. The $260 million project replaced 13 elementary schools, renovates two elementary schools and builds a new Franklin Heights High School. The elementary project was divided into three phases: Phase 1 - Alton Hall, Harmon, Monterey and Prairie Norton Elementary Schools, Phase 2 - Bolton Crossing, Darbydale, Finland, J.C. Sommer and Stiles Elementary Schools, and Phase 3 - Highland Park, Prairie Lincoln, Richard Avenue and West Franklin Elementary Schools. Buckeye Woods and Darby Woods Elementary Schools were completely renovated both inside and outside during the summer of 2014.
The newly-built Alton Hall, Harmon, Monterey and Prairie Norton Elementary Schools were opened to students, staff and families in September 2014, as well as renovated Buckeye Woods and Darby Woods Elementary Schools. In August 2015, the newly-built Darbydale, Finland, J.C. Sommer, and Stiles Elementary Schools, and Franklin Heights High School opened their doors to students, staff, and families. Features of the new buildings include:
- LEED Silver Rating for construction and energy performance
- Separation of bus and parent drop-off for safe pedestrian/vehicular traffic flow
- Stormwater quality devices to improve run-off
- Native landscaping to promote sustainability and long-term growth
- Extended learning opportunities with the use of outdoor classroom spaces
- Age-appropriate playground space with a dual functioning bus lot for overflow event parking and hard surface play
- Flexible learning spaces with small and large group Extended Learning Areas for blended educational opportunities that include both fixed and moveable furniture
- Large flexible space with a combined cafeteria/gymnasium area
- Low maintenance building materials - brick, metal roofs, rubber flooring and terrazzo
- Highly insulated and sealed exterior for optimum energy performance
- Reduce flow fixtures for lower operating rates
- Geothermal well fields for a highly efficient HVAC system
- Daylight and occupancy sensors in all rooms to reduce electrical loads
- Designed to support one-to-one student video streaming devices
- Interactive projectors and document cameras in all learning spaces
- WiFi access throughout the entire building
In 2014, the District transitioned to "Google Apps for Education" (GAFE) to provide students and staff members with a new set of online tools for collaboration, communication, time management, and document storage. This transition gives students practice using current technology application tools as well as the ability to work collaboratively on projects both at school and outside of school. The District also redesigned its Web site, building sites and teacher sites in Google to provide an easy-to-edit environment in which to provide information to families and the greater community.
In the Fall of 2015, the District implemented all-day, everyday kindergarten and opened its Accelerated Learning Center (dual enrollment college program).
In November 2018, voters passed another no new millage bond issue to co-fund Segment 2 of the district's overall Ohio Facilities Construction Commission project. Segment 2 will replace Brookpark, Finland, Norton, and Pleasant View Middle Schools, build an addition on Jackson Middle School, renovate East Franklin Elementary School, and provide funds for much needed roofing and asphalt projects across the district. The renovation of East Franklin is phased in over multiple summers. The new middle schools are scheduled to open in the Fall of 2022.
In August 2022, the District opened four new middle schools ahead of the 2022-2023 school year. As a part of the commissioning of the new schools, Brookpark Middle School was renamed to Beulah Park through a student, staff, and community input process paying homage to the former racetrack that enveloped the grounds the building sits on.