Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools Lincoln Elementary School, home to thousands of students and staff, was demolished July 5 to make way for the new Gahanna Lincoln High School campus.
District communications coordinator Judy Hengstebeck said the elementary school, located at 515 Havens Corners Road, was built from 1956 to 1957 and was torn down around 7:30 a.m. in pouring rain, lightning and thunder.
Retired educator Dorothy Anderson, who worked there for 30 years, including from 1990 to 2003 as principal, was taking a flight to Tucson, Arizona, around 10 a.m. but couldn’t bring herself to go through school.
She was in town to visit family and celebrate a friend’s 90th birthday.
Anderson said Lincoln was “a home away from home,” in a July 2 phone interview.
“It was fantastic,” she said. “Those were the fastest 30 years of my life. Our team. We considered ourselves a family.
Anderson said his predecessor, the late Ed Rarey, created that environment.
“We worked together, laughed, cried, celebrated each other’s ups and downs,” she said. “That feeling carried over to the children. To this day, when I come back here, they say, “Dorothy is back” and 20 teachers meet for lunch.
She said the parents of the students at the school were also fantastic.
“We’ve had students come into our building where the parents were there as elementary students,” Anderson said. “They wanted the same environment as them.”
On a July 5 Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools Facebook post about the demolition, Dorothy Milless Hedges wrote, “So many memories! I went to school there, as well as my four children. Gahanna has changed so much since I moved there as a two-year-old in 1949.”
“So grateful for the hard work put in to make our school system amazing,” added Katrinka Stewart.
Anderson said Lincoln was one of the first elementary schools to have an internship program for college education majors.
“We had an intern from Otterbein (University) who spent the whole year with a teacher,” she said. “Ed Rarey started that. It started with Otterbein, and other colleges got involved. They would be in our class. They would learn on the job. Lincoln was also the first to start the DARE program. We had two reading teachers who wrote and published books to use with their children Staff, I can think of five or six who became directors in other buildings.
Anderson said the school’s physical education teacher, the late Brian Hamler, became Superintendent of Schools for the City of Whitehall.
She said it was not staff locking themselves in a classroom.
“The kids were all ours,” Anderson said. “We all felt lucky to be part of Lincoln. We’ve always called each other the Lincoln girls. We were a big family and collaborated with each other.
She said parents started calling the school in September to find out the Halloween theme so they could make costumes. “We had our Halloween parade come out,” she said. “We had Christmas programs.”
Anderson said working at Lincoln wasn’t just a job.
“I think all of those teachers felt that,” she said. “It was 30 wonderful years.”
Hengstebeck said the school was named after the high school located one block from the elementary school and that three renovations had been completed throughout its history.
The district opened the new Lincoln Elementary School at 261 Helmbright Drive in August 2021.
Anderson said she saw the new Lincoln last year and was impressed.
In addition to Rarey and Anderson, Lincoln’s other managers were Kristen Groves, Jim Micciulla and current manager Claire Giardino, Hegstebeck said.
Souvenir bricks from the razed school are available to residents, alumni, teachers, or anyone interested in preserving a piece of Gahanna-Jefferson history by filling out an online form.