The historic Hebron Elementary School building could soon have a new owner: the village of Hebron.

The village announced plans to acquire the century-old school — empty since Lakewood Local School District closed the building due to its deteriorating conditions in May last year – pending review, on Thursday, April 11. 

Hebron Mayor Valerie Mockus has plenty of ideas about how to utilize the 110-year-old building and hopes it could someday house Hebron Village Hall, a community center, a library or a new space for the local historical society.  

“I want to be very clear that these are only my ideas for the building,” Mockus said. 

The old Hebron School, outlined in yellow, is centrally located in the village — just south of Rt. 40 and west of old Rt. 79. Credit: Licking County Auditor’s website Credit: Licking County Auditor's website

The end goal, Mockus said, was to use the three-floor building for the community as a space that supports Hebron residents by bringing essential services closer to the center of town.  

The building was initially put up for auction by Lakewood Local Schools in December last year, with a starting bid of $650,000. The school district received no bids for the building, which remains in a state of increasing disrepair. 

The building, built in 1914, stood the test of time while educating Hebron’s youth, and at one point, all grade levels were taught there. Generation after generation of Hebron’s families attended school in the building, which former dean of students Scott Coffey called “Frankensteined,” because of its many additions.

The hallways warp through the building. They slope, curve and turn — revealing the oldest parts of the building, as well as more modern additions from the 1950s, ’70s and ’80s. 

But with three floors and no elevator, the building wasn’t compliant for people with disabilities, and it couldn’t meet today’s standards for school safety, with no place to vet visitors before they entered the building. And with almost no airflow in classrooms, temperatures could sometimes reach 100 degrees on the third flood on a hot day. 

With a starting bid of $650,000 and no clear plans for the building, Mockus said acquisition wasn’t necessarily in the cards. 

“If another organization had swooped in and offered them millions of dollars, I would have cheered for Lakewood to get that revenue to be able to move forward and do the things they need to do for the students,” Mockus said. 

When the building received no bids at auction, Mockus believed the village might actually be able to afford to purchase and renovate the building. 

On Wednesday, April 10, the village council made an offer of $375,000 for the school building and the 9-acre property where it sits, and the school board voted in favor of the sale on the same evening. 

Funding for the village’s acquisition of the building will likely come from American Rescue Plan Act funds,  initially given to local municipalities to help offset financial challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. Mockus said the funding was initially challenging to use, due to federal regulations, but over time, the federal government loosened restrictions on how the cash infusion could be used. 

The village has until September to review plans for the building and to finalize the purchase. 

“I’m not interested in saddling the village with something that is not a great fit,” Mockus said. “It’s going to take the village to make this a success if we move forward, so we need to know that [residents] are behind it.” 

The village has hired DesignGroup, a Columbus-based architectural firm that specializes in sustainable designs in health-care, education, library, civic and office space projects, to devise potential uses and plans for the building. 

In the meantime, Mockus hopes residents will voice their thoughts about the acquisition before the September deadline. 

“Every person who thinks it’s a terrible idea, please let us know why, so we can see if we can fix that concern,” she said. “Some people are going to say the roof, and some people are going to say the lack of accessibility. Some people are going to talk about the windows being old, and it’s not energy efficient. Some people are going to talk about HVAC, and I say great, tell me everything else, too.”

The village plans to host public meetings where residents can weigh in on the acquisition, though the schedule for those meetings has not yet been released. 

However, Mockus has extended an invitation to members of the Hebron community to reach out to her anytime at

“I would not turn down a call from anybody that wants to talk about it,” she said. “I am super excited to discuss it.” 

Brittany Misner, the village’s economic and community development director, said the acquisition holds “tremendous promise” for Hebron residents. 

“This initiative holds tremendous promise for Hebron, offering opportunities for economic revitalization, community engagement, and enhanced quality of life,” she said in a statement announcing the purchase. “We look forward to working closely with residents and stakeholders to realize these opportunities.” 

Andrew Theophilus writes for, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is sponsored in part by the Mellon Foundation and donationsfrom readers. Sign up for The Reporting Project newsletter here.