It was on March 11, 1955, just before dawn when a tornado struck the village of Newcomerstown. In the tornado's wake, the village found itself minus a school building. The East Elementary School, one of the two elementary schools in town, housed first through sixth grade, was damaged beyond use. The building was deemed unsafe after the majority of the roof was destroyed. The weight of the collapsing roof caused further damage to the fifty-seven-year-old structure's second floor, and walls. With the substantial damage, it was obvious that students would have to be housed elsewhere in order to continue the remainder of the 1954-55 school year.
At first, the two hundred eighty-nine East students were transferred to the Maplewood Elementary where half day classes were taught for both East and Maplewood students. The East students went to class from 8 a.m. - 12 p.m. and Maplewood students were in class from 1-4 p.m.
Following the end of the school year in May 1955, the Maplewood building was closed after more inspection revealed the building had some structural concerns related to normal aging and wear. Approval from state and federal officials was received around that same time for the construction of two new elementary school buildings. The East and Maplewood buildings were both razed between the summer of 1955 and early 1956.
During the transition in the construction of the new school buildings, classes would continue as usual, but in a variety of locations throughout Newcomerstown. Classes were held at the Presbyterian, Nazarene, and Calvary Methodist churches, Masonic Temple, C.I.O. Hall, and the Municipal Building.
Construction of the new East Elementary building began following the removal of the former structure and was the first of the two new buildings to be completed. The East Elementary opened on March 24, 1957, for students residing on the east and north sides of town. The remaining students from the south and west end of town, and bus students residing in the rural setting continued classes at the various community establishments while the West Elementary building was finished. The new East Elementary building was constructed on the site of the former East School and is the third school building that has been constructed on this same site. The first school building, the Union School, was constructed there in 1855, and later moved to a location behind the next school building (the East School) after it was constructed in 1898. The Union School was dismantled in 1930 and the wood from the structure was used to construct several small private residences in town.
The West Elementary School, the larger of the two new structures was constructed on a vacant lot located on Beaver Street. The building opened for classes September 1, 1957. The new structure housed Kindergarten through seventh grade for the first school year (1957-58), with seventh-grade classes transferring to the High School building beginning the 1958-59 school year. The East Elementary building also housed a Kindergarten class and grades first through sixth.
Originally, Kindergarten classes were held at the Annex building, behind the Middle School (then known as Newcomerstown High School), beginning in September 1951, and taught by Mrs. Mary Perkins. After the new school buildings were completed the Kindergarten classes were moved with one Kindergarten class located in the East building, taught by Mrs. Elizabeth Watson, and the other taught at the West building by Mrs. Mary Perkins.
The East Elementary School was comprised of seven classrooms, a gymnasium and stage area. The building being 96 feet in length, and total square footage 13,194. The total cost of construction $176,600.
The West Elementary School was originally comprised of seventeen classrooms, a larger gymnasium with stage area, and a cafeteria.The West building being 385 feet in length, and a total square footage of 30,388. The total cost of construction was $370,700. The architects for both buildings was Sigman & Tribbie of Cambridge. Contractors were W.H. Howard & Sons of Columbus, Whisler Plumbing of Massillon, Columbus Heating, and Burris Electric of Coshocton.
Fifty years later, the West Elementary building has now expanded since it was constructed, and the interiors of both structures have been modified and brought up to date. It is most likely expected that the buildings will continue to serve the future educational needs of Newcomerstown, and create many pleasant memories of school days for those that have attended there.