SPRINGFIELD TWP.  For Spring Hill Elementary School students, the last day of school before Christmas break is filled with exciting parties, pizza, caroling, as well as Santa and the special decorations done by custodian Mike Huffman.

Huffman said he spends about 50 hours making a special Christmas village in the cafeteria. He said the students love to look at all the houses, the train and decorations, but they never touch or bother them. It all began years ago when Huffman, or Mr. Mike as the students call him, decorated his office for Christmas when he was at Roosevelt School. Then he decorated the cafeteria door and it just snowballed from there.

He and his wife, Sandra, have found all the decorations at garage sales and the Hartville Flea Market. He said they go to the flea market early on Saturdays getting there before the crowd. Teachers and students have also donated decorations to the effort.

Huffman is retiring and said he is leaving “lots of good stuff” for Principal Dave Jurmanovich to take over the decorating duties not only for the large Christmas village display but also for the Halloween display. Each year, Huffman sets up a display by the office for all the kids to see as they come through the doors each morning. Families get a chance to see the decorations during the Halloween party each year.

One of the favorite decorations at Christmas is the train but the kids also love the clock that hangs on the Santa House which plays Christmas music on the hour. Huffman built the Santa Claus house four years ago, he added three eight-foot tables this year to the already large display. He has real candy canes on the trees. It has been a growing display over his 38 years as a Springfield Local Schools custodian at Roosevelt, Young and Spring Hill.

He could not say enough about the wonderful staff and kids at the school. He was especially complementary about Jurmanovich.

Huffman said the year is topped off with every child getting a chance to sit on Santa’s lap and talk about their special wishes. Christmas songs play in the cafeteria and each child receives a candy cane.

Santa was first asked to make the school a stop on his pre-holiday tour by Jurmanovich four years ago when he became principal. The Spring Hill children had been on the nice list and Jurmanovich thought they deserved a special visit from the jolly man. Fortunately, the students have continued their good behavior and get to enjoy that special visit from the red-suited man.

Students had a great day with Christmas parties in their rooms, Teacher Tom Anderson’s third grade class kept their tradition of caroling to each class room in the school, singing tunes like “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer," “Up On the Housetop," "Jingle Bells” and more.

Jurmanovich said it is a fun time for the students and staff. He said it is unbelievable what Huffman does with his decorations and he realizes he is going to have to take over the job and has already begun watching for the sales on decorations.

Huffman said it has been a lot of fun but next year when school begins, he and his wife plan to sit on the porch with their coffee and watch the school buses go by.