People stand outside waiting for the beginning of a ribbon cutting ceremony at Hillsdale Local Schools' new facility on July 18, 2023. The facility's been a work in progress since a community meeting was held about it on March 13, 2018. Credit: Mariah Thomas, Report For America Corps Member

JEROMESVILLE — Hillsdale Local Schools celebrated its new facility, inviting community members to a ribbon cutting and walk-through on Tuesday.

“The project and how things fell together — it was meant to be,” said Steve Dickerson, Hillsdale’s outgoing superintendent, at the ribbon cutting. 

In a speech before people toured the facility, Dickerson talked about the road to get there, which he said started in 2017 at a superintendent’s meeting. He said district lawyers told him about Rover pipeline revenues that would let the district build a new facility. 

The Rover pipeline, a 711-mile natural gas pipeline, goes through Ohio and parts of Ashland County. Tax revenue from the pipeline flowed into local government entities, including local school districts, like Hillsdale, according to previous reporting from the Ashland Times-Gazette

Dickerson said the Rover pipeline funds ended up covering the cost of the new school without needing to ask taxpayers for the money. 

The community started meeting about the project in March 2018. Five years later, students, Hillsdale grads and school faculty and staff have finally set foot in a brand new building.

Dickerson was with the district the whole time the project happened, but oversaw his last board meeting just before the ribbon cutting for the new building. 

Nicholas Atterholt, the board of education’s vice president, recognized Dickerson’s leadership at the ribbon cutting. 

“He was hired when Hillsdale’s outlook was bleak and guided us through some darker times,” Atterholt said. 

Atterholt said Dickerson was a key part of making the project for the new building happen. Atterholt announced that at the board of education’s August meeting, he’ll be motioning to name the new gym in Dickerson’s honor.

Come fall, Dickerson’s replacement, Cathy Trevathan, will take over as Hillsdale Local Schools’ superintendent. 

Hillsdale’s new school facility replaced a 90-year-old elementary school, along with the high school and middle school buildings, which were both over 50 years old. 

“I’m very proud we could create something like this in rural Ashland County,” said Mary Neff, a graduate of Hillsdale Local Schools. “This isn’t a typical rural high school… It just is positive and inviting.” 

Neff said her kids graduated from Hillsdale Local Schools and her grandkids are current students. She hopes the new facility brings them a sense of community pride. 

Josh Wolf, a 2001 graduate of Hillsdale Local Schools and father of two students — a preschooler and first grader — felt that pride while looking at the new building. 

“They’ll be proud to graduate as Hillsdale Falcons,” Wolf said of his children. 

For Emily and Sommer Easterday, twins who are in the school band and will be seniors at Hillsdale this fall, the huge new band room was exciting to see. 

“I’m kind of nervous because I don’t know where my classes are, but I’m also excited to see all the new things,” Emily said. 

Kent Hostetler, an eighth grade math teacher, said he’s been in and out of the new building for the last two weeks. While it’s been limited, he said he’s been moving his stuff in and starting to unpack his classroom. 

Hostetler watched parents, students and other Hillsdale community members walk through the new building on Tuesday. 

“It’s exciting to see the smiles and it’s exciting for this community to finally be able to enjoy what we’ve been working so hard for,” Hostetler said. He said he’s glad for the new opportunities the building will give students, like the air conditioning and extra spaces. 

Alyson Baker, a curriculum director at Hillsdale Local Schools, agreed with Hostetler about the new facility providing more to students. She helped visitors at the school navigate the building, and said she’s most excited about the new learning areas and technology students will get to use come fall. 

Baker also said her new office is “way better” than the old one, and has a window overlooking the playground. She’s finished with her decorating, and just feels lucky for the space. 

Parts of the building were still closed off Tuesday, and Dickerson said that’s because it’s not quite finished yet. The building’s official turnover date is Aug. 11, but athletics and events will happen there before that date, which is why the walk-through took place sooner. 

Hillsdale Local Schools’ board of education has its next meeting on Aug. 8 at 7 p.m.

The Education section is brought to you by Ashland Family YMCA.

Ashland Source's Report for America corps member. She covers education and workforce development, among other things, for Ashland Source. Thomas comes to Ashland Source from Montana, where she graduated...

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