GREEN City officials made sure to let the courtroom know how much the historical Lichtenwalter Schoolhouse meant to the community during a hearing for two juveniles who admitted their part in setting the historic structure on fire in August.
Communications Director Valerie Wolford read a statement from city officials on Sept. 23 in Summit County Juvenile Court Judge Linda Teodosio’s courtroom as she ordered the teens to serve 150 hours of community service, undergo counseling and pay restitution for their roles in setting the schoolhouse on fire.
"Ask Green residents, what their first thought was when they heard that the historic Lichtenwalter Schoolhouse was destroyed by fire," the statement read. "Heartbroken. Devastated. Deeply saddened. Once they heard it was destroyed by arson, their emotions turned to anger and disbelief. How could someone be so heartless or stupid?"
The two juveniles admitted to two counts of breaking & entering and two counts of vandalism. Teodosio also ordered the teens to serve one year probation, attend school and obey school rules.
A third juvenile still faces charges in the case.
In addition to the juveniles, two adults, 19-year-old Mathew Swan and 18-year old Brandyn McCrosky, were charged in Summit County Common Pleas Court with arson (fourth-degree felony), two counts of breaking and entering (fifth-degree felony), vandalism (fifth-degree felony) and petty theft (first-degree misdemeanor).
The city’s statement went on to detail the history of the schoolhouse built in 1885 which was on property now owned by the Akron-Canton Airport. It was moved into the park in the 1960s by Joseph Boettler. The community then gathered together from 1999 to 2002 to raise money to restore the schoolhouse.
"Our community chose to preserve the history of this school," the statement read. "The history of a way of life. The history of the beginning of public school in America. And the history of individuals – the students that attended school there all those years ago. The families whose names are still known because they are the names of our streets – Boettler, Koons, Heckman, Steese, Thursby and so on."
The schoolhouse was most recently used by third graders from Green Local Schools.
"On Aug. 9, you also made a choice," the statement read. "We can only conjecture the reason for your choices. But in the end, your choice was wrong, senseless, heartless and truly hurtful to a community, and to the legacy that community built for its future children and the memorial it created to its founding families. Your choice defaced our memories. Your choice, not only did hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, but left a huge hole in the hearts of individuals including the fifth generation of Boettlers and the many who now call Green home."
The suspects gained access by breaking a window and unlocking a door of the schoolhouse. Inside desks were flipped and papers were lit on fire.
Wolford said the city didn’t win by reading this statement as the building loss cannot be replaced to what it was.
"It is sad we even had to share the statement," Wolford said.
The city has not made a final decision for the schoolhouse moving forward, but there is hope it can be rebuilt. The walls are expected to be stabilized for winter as the city works to come up with a plan for the future of the schoolhouse.