School Notes: Findings another step in bringing awarness to Upper Arlington's Pleasant Litchford

PAUL IMHOFF
ThisWeek group

The past two weeks have been a time of reflection on the history of the Upper Arlington community and the story of Pleasant Litchford, who contributed so much to this area.

In late August, a team of archaeologists found human remains while investigating the Litchford family cemetery adjacent to the current high school building.

This is an emotional and significant step in a collaborative effort to bring more awareness to the story of Pleasant Litchford and the importance of his contributions and those of other people of color to the community that would become Upper Arlington.

Litchford was a master blacksmith who had been enslaved in Virginia. After buying his own freedom and settling in the area that is now Upper Arlington, he built a successful business and purchased the land that is now home to the high school as well as Northam Park and Tremont Elementary School.

Following his death in 1879, Litchford's land was divided up between his heirs. In the 1950s, the school district acquired the piece of land that was home to the cemetery in order to build a high school. Approximately 30 bodies were exhumed and moved to other cemeteries in the ar

While the Litchford family's story remains well known in the history of central Ohio's Black community, it had long ago been left out of Upper Arlington's history in our schools and community. When local authors Diane Kelly Runyon and Kim Shoemaker Starr released their book "Secrets Under the Parking Lot" in early 2017, many residents were unaware of the Litchfords and their contributions to the area.

The book raised concerns that some of those laid to rest in the Litchford cemetery may have been left behind. The goal of the recent archaeological investigation was to identify if any graves still remained and if any artifacts, such as headstones, from this important time in our history could be found.

The archaeological team carefully removed the remains, which will be safely held in its lab as the district works with Mr. Litchford's descendants and families who may have had ancestors buried at the site to determine the appropriate next steps to properly honor those individuals and commemorate the history of the site.

We also will continue to expand our curriculum to teach the full history of our community. We hope to have students, staff and community members join us as we work to create a memorial and find ways to continue to share this important part of our history.

Responsible

Restart Plan

We are continuing to meet weekly with officials from Franklin County Public Health and Columbus Public Health about the COVID-19 coronavirus situation, and the news continues to be largely positive. It appears likely that we will begin the in-person hybrid-learning model Sept. 21.

We have created a plan to ensure a smooth transition for students in the school-based pathway. This plan provides for more in-person support for our learners with the highest needs beginning this week and small-group, in-school transition days for elementary students and those in sixth and ninth grades during the week of Sept. 14. You can read more about the plan at uaschools.org/ UARestart.aspx.

Athletics update

Last month, the state issued a new order for athletics that allows our student-athletes and marching-band members to move forward with a fall season with health and safety precautions in place. The state order limits spectator access to only 15 percent of our fixed-seating capacity. With this in mind, we are limiting tickets to only the family of our student-athletes, marching-band members and cheerleaders. Walk-up tickets and season passes will not be available, and while we normally enjoy providing passes for our senior residents, we will not be able to honor those passes this season.

We appreciate our community's support with this and other safety measures so that our students get to enjoy the season for which they have been working so hard.

Paul Imhoff is superintendent of Upper Arlington Schools. Follow him on Twitter at @imhoffpaul. His office provides this column to the ThisWeek Upper Arlington News.