The History of West Chester Schools

The schools of West Chester (formerly Union Township) have a history that dates back to the early 1800's. In the earliest days, a school was created through the joint effort of several local families. Once homes and farms were established, a group of neighboring families would select a location and share their resources and physical labor to build a school for their children. The earliest school in Union Township was possibly built as early as 1806. It was a log cabin built on a farmer's property located on, what is now, Cincinnati-Dayton Road between Olde West Chester and Gano. That schoolhouse was lost to fire, as was a second one built on the same foundation. In 1878, a brick building replaced the log cabin schoolhouse in a new location on same property. It was later turned into a private residence and is still standing today.

In June 1823, Union Township was formed out of Liberty Township, and two years later, school directors were appointed to obtain land, choose locations, and oversee the construction of new schools. The township was divided into nine districts, and over time, new schools were built. Larger, brick buildings eventually replaced log cabins as they were outgrown or lost to fires.

These early schools contained grades 1-8. Students wishing to attend grades 9-12 could go to Hamilton or Lockland, but transportation was difficult to impossible for those who lived farther away from the local railroad stations. In 1917, however, this changed. A new school was built to combine the nine school districts and provide a high school education for Union Township students. The "Union Centralized School," also known as "West Chester School," opened in the fall of 1917, complete with grades 1-12. Schools from the various districts closed when the new school opened, and transportation to the new building was provided by the Board of Education in the way of horse-drawn buses.

Union Centralized School eventually became too crowded. In 1932, a new township hall was built next to the school with the understanding that it would be leased to the school board for $1 a year. The trustees used one room in the building while the rest was used by the school.

The school system of Union Township saw much change and growth over the years. In the 1940s-1950s, new subdivisions resulted in a large increase in the student population. Under superintendent D. Russell Lee, Union school was remodeled and expanded several times to keep up with the growth. In 1957, Liberty and Union Townships combined their school districts, and in 1959 a high school was built. Throughout the 1960s-1970s, new elementary and junior schools were constructed throughout the two townships to reach the ever growing population, and in 1997 two new high schools were opened. To this day, the Lakota school district continues to experience large student populations, and new school construction and expansion. Lakota is ranked the 7th largest school district in the state of Ohio in terms of student population!
For more information regarding the history of Union Township and its schools, please see A History of Union Township Butler County Ohio written by Virginia Shewalter and Our Alma Mater: Union Township School West Chester, Ohio compiled by Dorothy Aufranc, Eileen Parson, and D. Russell Lee.