History Series: Transportation & Truancy in the Early Years
by Linda Dillman
Hamilton Township Alumni Association
Transportation and truancy are not new concerns for school districts. The truant officer was an important part of the early school system and the first record of paid transportation was mentioned in the September 30, 1904 school board minutes.
H. A. Sandridge was paid $5 per month for transporting his children and those of two other families to the school building in Obetz. The students previously attended the Riley School (Obetz Road and Parsons Avenue), but due to overcrowding, were asked to attend school in their own district, which was one and a half miles further away.
In September 1922, the board purchased a transportation body for $465 from Carl Oty of Lockbourne to install on a truck, which is considered the first school bus in the township. Lee Hackworth was employed to transport students from the Miner Grade School to the Walnut Hill School and from Miner to the school in Lockbourne at an annual salary of $65. Hackworth furnished the chassis for the bus body.
Two years later, two bus routes serviced the growing district. Lee Dill was the driver on route one and John Eakin transported students on the second route. In 1926, Walter Koebel was hired to transport students of Walnut Hill and Hartman Farm to and from Obetz.
Unlike the climate controlled buses of today, the early buses had no heat and on very cold mornings, children sometimes ran the risk of frostbite.
By 1928, there were five bus routes with vehicles owned by their drivers. A little more than 20 years later, the school board began purchasing their own buses. Today, 18 buses transport students throughout the school district. In addition to a fleet of buses, the truancy officer also travels township roadways on the lookout for students playing hooky.
In 1890, the officer’s salary was $1.50 a day and he was instructed to not spend more than two days each month in each of the township’s 10 districts. The officer’s duties also included a written report every two months. An 1899 report for October and November listed 17 boys and four girls, age 10 to 15, as truant. Four of the boys were given two warnings and one 10-year-old girl was taken to the county children’s home.
The officer’s salary was raised to $2 a day in 1895. The same year, the board required all youth between eight and 14 years of age not regularly employed to start school in September. All others were told to begin attending classes no later than the first Monday in December. In 1900, the board told the truancy officer, J. A. Darnell, to visit each school and prosecute persistent truants and their parents or guardians.
While truancy officers of today continue to respond to students who prefer to spend their school day off school grounds, they have a few more tools at their disposal. Students identified as chronically truant can be placed in Hamilton’s Alternative Academy. In addition, under Ohio law, high school students who fail to attend school without a legitimate excuse may be required to forfeit their driving privileges until they reach the age of eighteen or receive a diploma.