The fifth grade class of Ritzman Community Learning Center in Ellet is part of a unique history with Springfield.
The fifth graders finished the year in kindergarten before the school was torn down in 2007. They were the last class to attend the old John C. Ritzman Elementary school, which was built in 1891 as Springfield Township High School. Ellet was located in Springfield Township at the time the original school was built. The name Ellet didn’t come until later.
On May 25, the fifth graders and alumni from the school gathered at the new Ritzman Community Learning Center. The new school is located where the historic building once stood.
“We are an excellent school, we live in an excellent community, we have excellent students and an excellent staff,” Principal Larry Bender said. “We also are fortunate to have a lot of history with Ritzman, right here on the ground where you are sitting.” Bender introduced Uniontown resident, Bill Fritz, a former Ritzman student who has been working on special projects to commemorate the history.
“He has taken the lead in keeping the Ritzman spirit and history alive,” Bender said.
“The real reason we are here is because your class is the last to say that you went to school at the John C. Ritzman building. That is going to be very special.” said Fritz. “It is hard to believe this connection between Springfield and Ellet ends.”
Fritz held up a brick from the original building and said, “If you think about this brick, it is the same brick that was in the school when the alumni sitting here today went to school. It was the foundation that was set for all of you a long time ago.”
He told students that time flies by very fast and someday they will look back and reflect on where they came from. “I never forgot this foundation,” Fritz said.
He pointed out that sitting in the audience was Jim Burtoft, who graduated from the school in 1937, Mary Ila (Lincicome) Jackson (1945), Jim Parker who was in the last class before the school became Ellet High School, Pauline (McCart) Fletcher, 1940, Beverly (Powell) Fletcher 1964, Paula (Fritz) Wagner 1980 and Liz (Dicenzi) Huth 1945.
“The oldest person we found that attended the school lives in Portage Lakes, Carl Gemmil. He could not come today,” Fritz said.
Fritz, a 1971 graduate of Ellet High School, has a passion for the history of the building. The building began as Springfield Township High School and five additions were needed to house all the students. In 1930, the City of Akron bought the land and the school became part of Akron Public Schools and was named Ellet High School. In 1951, the school was renamed after the custodian of the building, John C. Ritzman. It was torn down in 2007 and a new building on the site was opened as the Ritzman Community Learning Center.
Page 2 of 2 - Fritz told the fifth graders that the day the school was torn down was a sad day for former students. “Never forget about where you came from. We want to keep the history and the spirit alive,” he said.
On behalf of the fifth graders, Fritz presented secretary-treasurer of the Springfield Historical Society, Joy Dies with a brick from the original building that Springfield students once attended. He also gave her a photo of the building and a postcard of the school to be displayed at Springfield's Town Hall. Dies said, “I thank you so much for this. This is a big part of what will be in our collection. We are so grateful for your gift today.”
She also told those in attendance that they were welcome to stop by anytime to see the Historical Society display.
Art teacher Amy Pepperney had the students create sketches of the old building. A group of alumni chose the winning artwork that best portrayed the building.
“You all did a wonderful job,” Fritz said. The three winners were Alyssa Brandt, Alethea Davis and Emily Moses. Each received a school postcard, a brick from the school and their artwork will hang in the school.
Each of the fifth grade students received a certificate and Fritz had students unveil the refurbished Ritzman School sign. He had found it lying on the ground when the building was torn down.
“Being a student of Ritzman myself, I can honestly say that Ritzman students are the best,” Fritz said. He thanked the principal for allowing him to speak to the class. “It was an honor to work with the fifth grade class. And, I am not smarter than a fifth grader.”
He said Ritzman students should be proud of their school and the teachers that educate and guide them. “It is one of the finest elementary schools in the state. Some day the history of the school will be very special to you.”
“This class is the last that walked the same halls that Springfield students once walked,” said Fritz. “This ends the era and the connection that we had.”
Postcards of the old school are being sold for $1 each. Proceeds benefit the Ritzman PTA.