BATAVIA — Construction of the Ross Street building, which eventually became Batavia Middle School, began 100 years ago. The staff, students and community marked that milestone Thursday evening with a celebration that included ringing two historic bells that summoned students to school more than a century ago.
Students and staff, Board of Education members and the community were on hand for the presentations and music by the Middle School Orchestra, Band and Chorus, and the reception that followed.
“We’re proud to be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Batavia Middle School. The history of 96 Ross St. is the foundation of the Batavia City School District,” said Superintendent Jason Smith. “Whether through the old Batavia High School building or the Middle School building we enjoy today, generations of Batavians have passed through these halls. Batavia Middle School is a jewel in our district, and we can’t wait to see what the next 100 years will bring.”
Construction of the current Batavia Middle School building began in 1922. The building originally housed both junior and senior high school students. The existing Batavia High School building was built in 1961, and 96 Ross Street was officially redesignated Batavia Middle School in 1982.
Over the last year, Batavia Middle School staff members, in collaboration with Genesee Valley BOCES, worked to restore a pair of historic bells that were once used at 96 Ross Street, then Batavia High School, through 1924.
Smith recalled that after walking through the Middle School this past summer, Kerry Boyle of the school Maintenance Department proudly pointed out the bells to him. Smith said Boyle, also a Batavia graduate, was as excited as he was.
“Coupled with some previous prodding by our good friend Mr. (Jim) Owens, we undertook this project with our friends at BOCES to refurbish and display these wonderful bells,” he said.
Middle School Principal Nate Korzelius said bringing the two bells back to life was a collaborative effort.
“When I started here at Batavia Middle School a year and a half ago Jim Owens made me aware of their existence in our basement. He educated me on the significant history they represented to our Batavia community,” he told the audience. “With the help and support of Mr. Smith, our Batavia Maintenance Department, and the (Genesee Valley) BOCES auto body classes the process of restoring these historical bells became a reality. We couldn’t be happier with the way our Batavia community rallied around the restoration.”
Administrators unveiled the bell at one side of the auditorium stage and a group of eighth-grade mentors — Meg Gahagan, Jenna Higgins, Ty Gioia, Ryan Bigsby and Aubrey Sputore — unveiled the other bell. The Middle School Orchestra performed, followed by the Middle School Band and Chorus. The band and chorus performed “Carol of the Bells,” which included both bells being struck toward the end of the song.
“I thought it was very fantastic — a really nice job,” David Rice said from his seat near the front of the auditorium. He was there with his wife, Cheyenne Rice, and Lori Childs to see their great-granddaughter and Childs’ daughter, Leah, a seventh-grader playing cello in the orchestra.
“The whole program was very well-done. It was beautiful,” Childs said.
The three of them said they had no idea the bells would be rung as part of the celebration.
“We were talking. It was nice that they had saved the bells all those years,” Childs said. “It was really neat and very special.”
Cheyenne Rice said it was nice that they got the kids involved.
“Recognizing some of the kids was really nice,” she said.
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