As the bricks of Voris Elementary School fell to the ground, so did former students’ hopes they’d get to walk the halls one more time. The school, located on Woodsdale Avenue in Firestone Park near Coventry Township, was built in 1930. Students used the building until January 2007, when a new school was constructed. Students from Rimer Elementary School used the old Voris building for two years as swing space until the new Rimer was completed. Following the departure of the Rimer students, the old Voris building sat empty from August 2009 until late February. That’s when demolition began.
As soon as demolition crews knocked into the building, former students lined the sidewalks around the school to watch.
“I feel like I am losing an old friend and I have to keep coming back and checking on them,” said Jenene Hanlon, a student who attended Voris for six years starting in 1975.
Hanlon, along with many other past students, are outraged that Akron Public Schools never held a ceremony allowing the public to walk through one final time. Students are upset that few artifacts, artwork and special mementos were salvaged from the building.
“I understand progress of building the new school, but they needed to give us a final goodbye,” Hanlon said.
Jimmy Scichilone’s frustrations have been mounting for a few years. Scichilone, who attended Voris from 1958 to 1965, has been requesting for the past two years that the district arrange for a final walk through.
“Every phone call and email led to a dead end as the issue was just brushed off,” Scichilone said.
Voris sat empty for a little more than three years before demolition crews began working on the building. Prior to a fence going up around the building, several individuals were told by demolition workers they could go inside, take pictures and anything else they wanted. A worker even offered to help remove items from the building for those who wanted them.
Word quickly spread on a Voris Facebook page that people were being allowed to go into the building, so others showed up. When the demolition supervisor arrived, he called police and filed a report. No one was charged, but several police reports were made on those who entered the school and removed items.
Councilman Donnie Kammer said he had several residents call and email about entering Voris for one final time after they found out others had gone inside.
“I made several calls and found out the building was off limits because of liability issues,” Kammer said, adding that he warned everyone who wanted to go inside of the police reports filed on those who had already tried to enter.
As demolition began, students had no other option but to watch as their former school was demolished. Students say they do not question the need for demolition, they just wish more was saved and a final ceremony had taken place. Lockers and chalkboards could be seen standing inside the mangled walls.
Page 2 of 2 - “These items could have been saved or auctioned off,” Hanlon said. “Instead, they’re sitting in a pile of rubble.”
Mark Williamson, communications coordinator for Akron Public Schools, said the district storage space is at capacity with salvaged items from other schools and there was no more room for items.
“We are operating in a very streamlined fashion these days, and it is not practical for us to use our resources to put together an auction or gigantic yard sale that would have required countless hours of work and inventorying,” Williamson said.
The school district said it owns the property, but the demolition company owns the rubble and material that remains. A report filed with the Akron Police Department states the demolition company bought the property from the city.
“...Shortly after the students moved to their swing space while the new school was being constructed, I don't believe the idea had been floated to us from the community about a final open house,” said Williamson.
While demolition continues, the memories from the past will have to remain in former students’ minds. Jimmy Schichilone and his brother Dave Scichilone, who also attended the school, have been watching the school come down more each day. Each day they watch uncovers a new memory.
“I remember when I was in the 5th grade and won the marble tournament, and I still have the medal from it,” Dave Scichilone said.
His brother counters with a different memory.
“I can recall being in the 5th grade and just returning to my classroom from recess, and I found out about the assassination of President Kennedy,” he said. “We all stood up and said a prayer and then were sent home that day.”
Demolition crews discovered a time capsule that was buried in the front of the school in 1976 and won't be opened until 2076. The capsule was moved into the new school where it will be safely kept until it is opened.
Although former students won’t get their final walkthrough, there are plans for a May ceremony that will offer bricks to community members.