a crossing guard ushers students cross the street in a black and white photo

MANSFIELD — The city block once home to Prospect Elementary School sat covered in heaps of brick and concrete as crews continued their work Thursday morning. 

The sunny skies and a bright yellow bulletin board, still fastened to one of the last remaining walls, stood in stark contrast the rubble. Crews began tearing down Prospect Elementary on earlier this month. The school closed its doors for good after the 2021-2022 school year.

Officials from Mansfield City Schools say the district considered selling or renovating the building, but ultimately decided it was cost prohibitive. The estimated cost for roof repairs alone was estimated to be at least $1 million.

Supt. Stan Jefferson has stated that the district funds would be better spent on curriculum and instruction, rather than costly repairs to aging buildings.

According to Robert Booth, facilities director for Mansfield City Schools, the district salvaged furniture, some doors, the school sign, fire and security alarms, a flagpole and parts of the boiler before the project began.

Booth said he couldn’t share specific details, but that the district intends to hold on to the property and hopes to do something with it that would benefit the community.

To help preserve the legacy of Prospect Elementary, Richland Source asked readers to share their memories.

For Marissa Carpenter, Prospect Elementary was a place where major milestones took place.

“(I) remember when I got dropped off for my first day of school,” she said. “(I) had my first kiss behind the tree that used to be in the far back of the playground.”

Steve Magas and his family moved to Mansfield from Cleveland in 1968. He was a rising fifth grader at the time.

“I was placed in Mrs. (Ilo) Swartz’s class,” Magas recalled. “As the ‘new kid’ coming from the big city, I felt a bit out of place. But my neighbor, Brad Barber, was a year ahead, which helped, and I found many friends quickly, through sports mostly.”

The next year, Magas was placed in Mrs. (Evelyn) Kipp’s sixth grade class. Kipp lived just a few doors down from the Magas family.

Magas described Prospect as a fun place to go every day.

“(I) have great memories of Prospect Elementary, learning the ‘flute-a-phone’ in music, singing the 50 States song, having Mr. (Carl) Strine for gym, walking or riding my bike to school,” Magas said. “(I) got to know so many good folks in those years. Many of the kids in that 6th grade photo still stay in touch from time to time

“Our Malabar Class of 1975 has a great turnout every five years for a reunion.”

Lorri Collins attended Prospect from 1960 to 1965.

“I lived two houses from Prospect, so it was easy to walk to school and go home for lunch,” Collins said. “We played on the playground day and night. My favorite teachers were Miss (Mary) Ward, Mrs. (Mary) Jones and Mrs. (Betty) Garnes. Mr. Strine was our gym teacher and he ran a tight ship!

“Neighborhood schools in the ’60’s were a total experience. I have many great memories of lawn fetes, talent shows and playing on the swings at Prospect Park.”

iana Wainwood still remembers when her father would visit her school to vaccinate the students in the early 1950s.

“My father, Dr. Harry Wain, was Mansfield/Richland City Public Health officer for many years,” she said. “He would peek thru the window of my classroom and wave to me.

“One of my little friends, Ralphie, asked ‘Is that your father or something?’ My father answered ‘I’m her ‘or something!’ It became a family joke for years.”

Gavin Dodd attended Prospect from 2013 to 2016. His most vivid memories of are of his third grade teacher.

“Her name was Miss (Sydney) Conley. She was one of the greatest, most understanding and most helpful teachers I’ve ever had,” Dodd said. “She did so many great things for her students.

“I remember one story, I was in her class it was the end of the day I think and she tossed a water bottle to a student and it landed right side up on the ground. I remember the whole class freaked out and everyone was in shock. I still think about that memory a lot.”

Scott Jeffrey noticed a peculiar pattern while attending Prospect in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

“I remember all the teachers I had,” Jeffery said. “Mrs. Ward in first, Mrs. Willy in third and Mrs. Kipp in sixth all retired after having me. I started to develop a complex about that.”

Ward retired right after Jeffery finished the first grade, but the two were reunited two decades later years later.

“Much to my delight, I met her at the front door of her home,” he said. “I was her new mailman.

“I smiled so big I could feel my face nearly breaking. She was still with us and as sharp as could be. She remembered me and we talked for a short bit, as I had my rounds, but it was so great to see her after all that time. It was especially nice to see that she had enjoyed a long, full retirement.”

Charles Bradley II taught beginning band courses at Prospect. Space was limited, so he held classes in the cafeteria.

“The Prospect staff were very nice and supportive, and I’ll always have fond memories of teaching in that building,” Bradley said.

Jamie Hempfield grew up on Reba, where he could easily walk to school. He attended from 1987 to 1993. He still remembers admiring the school principal’s car.

“(Charles) Webster drove a small red convertible (I believe Dodge Shadow) and DARE had just kicked off, complete with the clown in a Miata on the playground,” he said.

One of Dan Gregory’s favorite memories from his time as a student in the 1960s was having his grandmother, Mary Jones, as his third grade teacher.

At 65 years old, Karen Booher said she’s still in contact with several of her elementary school friends. Among her fondest memories are lawn fetes and marching around the school in costume for Halloween.

“Mr. Strine was gym teacher, we not only had tumbling and normal gym stuff but also learned Square dancing,” she added. “Mr. (Charles) Divilbiss was principal, he raised bees and we had assembly in gym with him teaching us about bees and their importance.”

Beth Powell also keeps in touch with her friends from Prospect, even though she’s since moved out of the area. Powell attended Prospect from fourth through sixth grade. Her fourth grade teacher Mrs. Candice Smith had a profound impact on her.

“She singled me out as needing some attention and she supported me throughout the year,” Powell recalled.

“Mrs. Smith allowed me to read outside of reading time, extra time in the library and be a classroom helper. I visited her home when I was in University to thank her for saving me.”

Powell’s other cherished memories include recess and the annual lawn fetes.

“The playground was spectacular. (We) played four square on the asphalt, house and tag on the tree roots,” she said. “The lawn fetes were the perfect end to the year. Although I did get in trouble in grade six for having a ‘date.’ “

Jennifer Blandi-Scruggs learned to ride her bike on the Prospect Elementary playground. She still remembers admiring her kindergarten teacher Marilyn Ogg’s black leather boots, skirts and makeup. 

In first grade, she was in Cindy Metzger’s class.

“She helped foster a love of reading and the library,” Blandi-Scruggs recalled. “She had her first baby boy during the school year and our class had a baby shower for her.”

She also remembers the school’s other first grade teacher, Helen Gross.

“I will always remember her having eggs and watching the baby chicks hatch and grow,” she said. “I recently saw her and had a nice time reminiscing.”

Blandi-Scruggs also shared fond memories of Stine and the school librarian.

“Mr. Strine was the gym teacher, and I will always remember him riding around on a unicycle, having us littles ‘warm up’ with exercises including ‘shoot the cannon,’ ” she said. “I also remember playing capture the flag and soccer in his class.

“The librarian was Mrs. Dune and I so enjoyed her library, I often wanted to help her in the library instead of going to recess.”

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