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This and That - 200 Years at the Fort School Days – Part 2 PDF Print E-mail
Monday, September 24, 2012 12:47 PM

Fast forward to 1958, when the Jennings Local School was chosen to pilot the first migrant school education program in the nation. There was a large group of Mexican – American migrants in the area.

Father Miller, the pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish was the “father” of this program. Children were also bused in from migrant camps in Jennings Township and from camps at Delphos, Kalida and Ottoville.
The Fort Jennings grade school was replaced in 1960 on a different site between Second St. and the Ottoville Road.  The new building, owned by the Catholic Parish and leased to the school board, included 14 classrooms, a multi-purpose room, library and cafeteria. Rose Warnecke and Mary Suever were the school cooks. High school students walked to the grade school cafeteria until 1974, when a van was purchased to transport the food to the high school building. Prior to the cafeteria, students walked to the downtown restaurants (or bars) for lunch. Some went home or carried their lunch. Many students remember Julie Dickman standing by the bar with her tray of ten cent hamburgers. The honor system was the rule of the day.
The high school had growing pains also so a large addition was built to the facility in 1965. This addition housed classrooms, office, library and a shop area. Upon completion of this addition, the 8th grade moved back to the high school building in 1965 and the 7th grade returned to the high school in 1972. The 7th and 8th grades had been temporarily housed at the grade school during the 60s.
The gym in the 1939 school had served the students well.  However the fast paced basketball required a larger gym floor so a new gym was built adjacent to the back of the high school. School musicals, class plays and some junior high basketball continued to be held in the old gym with its comfortable bucket seats.
The next addition came in 1998 when John and Agnes (Specht) Reich gave a very generous donation to the school. John and Agnes moved to Fort Jennings in their senior years and evidently they became attached to the community. The gift was used for a state of the art band room or music room. This room now houses the Fort Jennings Branch Library.
Really big changes came to the Jennings Local Schools at the turn of the century. The Ohio School Facilities Commission set up a program whereby it offered a large percentage of funds toward the construction of new schools in Ohio. This opportunity was offered to the local district in 1999. The state offered to pay 83 percent with the school district paying the remaining 17 percent. After several months of public relations in this regard the decision was made in August of 2000 to place the school construction bond issue on the November ballot. Following a favorable vote the Fort Jennings State Bank was designated as purchaser of the bonds.
Forty acres of land just off St. Rt. 189 was purchased for the building in March 2001. Fanning/Howey of Celina was approved as architects. They presented their plan in September 200l. The ground breaking ceremony was held 29 March 2002. Three members of the Class of 2017 were the first to break ground. Construction began almost immediately. Walls were going up on schedule but a wind storm came along in the fall of 2002, causing the collapse of one wall. This caused a delay in opening the new Pre K through 12th grade school.
By April of 2004 the building was ready for open house. The high school band played the school fight song for the opening ceremony in the 1,500 seat gymnasium. Rep. James Hoops and Senator Lynn Watchmann were there to congratulate the administrators, staff, students and community on the new facility. The $14 million dollar, 103,325-square-foot facility was paid for with $10,781,039 from the OSFC and the district residents picking up the rest with a 7.3 mill school levy and a .50 mill maintenance levy.
Following the dedication more than 400 interested residents, teachers and students toured the attractive building. The interior color scheme, is especially attractive….both warm and conducive to enthusiasm. Students commented that the best thing about the new school was the air-conditioning
It was a sad day in 2004 as many former students watched their old Alma Mater come tumbling down. The 1977 gym and the recently built band room would remain.  Many fond memories remain and many bricks were taken home for souveniers.
Students and teachers eagerly entered their new school in the fall of 2004, with much anticipation. They were happy with what they found. The new school includes elementary and high school wings, with corresponding administrative offices and a shared commons area, including the gymnasiums, auditeria and media center.
The elementary wing includes 14 classrooms, as well as an art room and special education rooms. Each classroom has a sink and drinking fountain, with pre-K and kindergarten rooms equipped with their own restrooms. There is also a special playground for smaller children.
The high school has 6 classrooms, including 2 for language arts, 2 for math, one for social studies and one for distance learning. There are 2 science classrooms, with chemical storage, a lifeskills lab, business education lab, industrial lab and CAD labs. Each classroom has 2 windows, except for one with only 1 window.
The students of FJHS are able to participate in several academic activities outside the classroom. These include:  JETS (Junior Engineering Technology Society), Scholastic Quiz Bowls, Envirothon, National Honor Society, Student Council, FCCLA (Family Career and Community Leaders of America), Big Brothers – Big Sisters (mentoring younger students), Science Fair, Civic Orations, Americanism Contest, The Plume (year book), Boys State, Girls State, Band, Chorus, School Musical, Senior Class Play, athletics, Homecoming, and Prom.
The JETS (11 – 12) Team took first in the Regionals at Ohio Northern University in March 2011. They finished 1st in the state and 4th in the nation. The 9 – 10 JETS Team finished 3rd in the state and 9th nationally. The JETS TEAMS have had consistently high ratings for 16 years, since 1999.
The Fort Jennings Envirothon Teams 1 and 2 took part in state competition again in 2011. Team 1 qualified for state by finishing second out of 57 teams in Area 1 at Defiance. Team 2 finished fourth. This was the 14th consecutive year that the FJHS teams qualified for State Competition.
The Student Council is a very active organization at FJHS.  Fort Jennings hosted the Ohio Association of Student Councils State Conference in 2007 and again in 2011.  Each time 400 to 500 students from all over Ohio descended on the village for 3 days and nights. They were guest in the homes of many Fort Jennings families.
Some students of Fort Jennings have been enrolled at the Vantage Vocational School over the years, where they have a chance to learn many technical and vocational skills.  Due to fewer young people going into farming, the Agriculture Program was dropped. One student drove to Delphos Jefferson for one period a day for four years, to enroll in Vo-Ag and FFA. Through the years FJHS has hosted several foreign exchange students mostly from Germany
The FJHS music department is held in high esteem, drawing large crowds for the three concerts each year. The 5th and 6th grade bands participate along with the Junior High and High School bands.  Vocal music is provided by the Junior High and High School chorus. The high school band has 95 members. There are 107 students participating in the band and chorus, which constitutes 87 percent of the student body. Their music is always timely and uplifting. It is a proven scientific fact that music participation helps students reach a higher level of achievement in academics. This fact is evident when academic awards are given at the end of the school term in Fort Jennings and in the school report card of the State of Ohio.
The icing on the cake for high school band members is participating in special events such as the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Walt Disney World Magic Music Days Parade and the Winchester Apple Blossom Festival.  The band also performs at the Kalida Pioneer Days, Ottoville Park Carnival Parade, The Putnam County Fair, the Fort Jennings Memorial Day activities and the Fort Jennings Bicentennial. The school musicals and senior class plays have been top notch, some musicals were The Sound of Music, Music Man, Camelot and more.
In addition to the “Three R’s” the students of Fort Jennings Elementary can take part in many enrichment programs including: COSI on Wheels, The Blue Ribbon Club (for outstanding efforts and random acts of kindness), Newberry Book Competition, Hands-on Science, FORT Adventure (Focusing on Remarkable Things after school, Technology Integration (Smart Board & iPad, etc.), Ribbon Week (promoting smart choices in life), Toys for Tots, Spreading the Holiday Spirit (which includes caroling at Senior Living Facilities), Big Brothers – Big Sisters (mentoring on assignments and enrichment programs), Kids on the Block (from BGSU), Lima Youth Orchestra Concert, Right to Read Week, Worlds Largest Concert, Quiz Bowl, Spelling Bee, and visits from Natsue Yonekura on Japanese culture. The elementary students are also provided with outstanding play-ground equipment.
Sports are an integral part of the school curriculum in Northwest and West Central Ohio.  This is very true in Putnam County, where it has become part of community pride.
Basketball has been the primary sport at Fort Jennings High School. Baseball was the first sport at FJHS, beginning in 1923. During the first years – 23, 25 and 26 — the team played only 1 or 2 games in a season. The Putnam County League for baseball was formed in 1931. There were 4 schools in the East Division: Crawfis College, Leipsic, Ottawa SPPS and Pandora. The high schools of Columbus Grove, Fort Jennings, Kalida, Ottawa Public and Vaughnsville formed the Western Division.
The first year for PCL boy’s basketball was 1935. The county tournament for boys began already in 1922.  Boy’s basketball at FJHS started in 1940, following the construction of the new high school with a gymnasium. Supt. Clarence Specht organized and coached the first team
Mr. Specht also chose the school colors of orange and black, along with the name Musketeers.
Gradually other sports were added to the athletic department. The 2010-2011 list of sports also includes: Boys and Girls Soccer, Boys and Girls Track & Cross Country and Golf.  Girls’ Volleyball was discontinued in 2006 because of the small enrollment and the conflict of schedules. The 2003-2004 volleyball team achieved a spot at the Ohio State tournament.  Boys and girls also had tennis from 1979 – 1982. FJHS even had wrestling in 1969.
SAY Soccer was the beginning of that sport in Fort Jennings. It gained in popularity because each player on a team was guaranteed to play two quarters per game. High School Boys Soccer started in 1999. The girls’ program began in 2001.
Girls’ sports began in 1971 with GAA basketball. Girls’ interscholastic sports began in the 1974 school year with the girls competing in volleyball, basketball and track events. High School girls’ basketball was officially sanctioned by the OHSAA with tournament play for the 1975-76 school year. The first state tournament for girls was in 1976. Early on girls had six players on a team and played the “half court” game.
Junior High boys and girls both take part in county basketball tournaments.
The high light of the FJHS boy’s basketball was winning the Ohio State Championship in 2000.  During that season they also beat Delphos St. John’s two times.  Many people traveled to Columbus on their own but the bank sponsored two chartered fan buses for the big event.  The week-end was topped off with a big parade and celebration in the gym.
The most notable season in girls’ basketball was 1999, when the team won the Regionals. One special game to remember was beating the Delphos St. John’s girls in an overtime tournament game.
The high school baseball team reached the State Semi-finals in 1994, but bowed out to Steubenville 4-2. The boy’s soccer team reached the State Semi-finals but lost Cuyahoga Falls CVCA on that cold November night in 2004.
Several groups and individuals reached the regional and state level in track and cross country.  In the spring of 2000 the Girl’s 1600 relay reached a place on the podium by coming in 5th in the state. Over the years several boys and girls have achieved the Academic All-Ohio.
Cheerleading has become a very competitive “sport”. Although not officially called a sport it has reached the point where it requires a high level of athletic ability. In recent years it has required tumbling and gymnastics. The Fort Jennings girls have taken part in competitions at the Allen County Fair, Van Wert County Fair, University of Findlay, Ohio State Fair,
Kalida Pioneer Days, Delphos Canal Days, Several Regional events and competed at the Nationals in Orlando Florida 2 times. The FJHS girls were National Runner-Ups in 2003.
Schools in Putnam County have been receiving high ratings in the Ohio School Report Card Plan. Most of these schools are regarded as small schools. Perhaps big city schools and the Ohio Department of Education could learn something from the education and life styles of these communities. Parents and grandparents play a large role in the formation of education in the schools in the county. FJHS has received the rating of EXCELLENT each year since the plans inception in 2001-02. For the 2008-09 school year, it was rated Excellent – With Distinction. The total enrollment of the Jennings Local Schools is 393 in grades K-12. This breaks down to 204 in the elementary (K – 6) and 189 high school students, including eight who attend classes at Vantage. There were 25 in the 2012 graduation class. There are 44 in the pre-school program, which includes children from Kalida and Ottoville, as well as those from Fort Jennings. Kindergarten was started in Fort Jennings in 1966.
The latest addition to be found on the FJHS campus is the Mary Lou Altenburger Outdoor Science Lab. Ground was broken for this outdoor classroom in May 2011. It was dedicated to “Mrs. A” who passed away on 2 May 2011. The 100 by 80 foot lab will include a windmill, solar panels, a garden and composting. There are several raised beds of flowers and vegetables in the plot. Over 100 trees were planted on the school campus in 2011.

And now – for old times sake!
The “old” or first FJHS School Song
Oh! Fort Jennings hail to thee
Oh, long may you stand
Our toast you will always be
We’re the best school in the land
See our colors gaily fly
As our team goes flashing by
And our cheers ring through the sky
Yea team!
So on boys to victory
Make score after score
Cheer for our team tonight
Make the echoes roar, Rah! Rah! Rah!
Cheer for the orange and black
And show the world our might!
On boys to victory
So let’s Fight! Fight! Fight!

You will notice it says: On BOYS to Victory. That was before girls’ sports came on the scene. The current school fight song is written to the tune of The Notre Dame Victory March.


Last Updated on Tuesday, November 06, 2012 3:39 PM

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