PATASKALA, Ohio -- Construction on a new Watkins Memorial High and Elementary Schools is temporarily on hold. Design plans are moving forward, but the Southwest Licking District says instead of beginning their site work this fall they will wait until at least spring.
As part of their work, a historical assessment of the property must take place. Any items that are more than fifty years old need to be recorded in a report to the National Register of Historic Places.
Crews recently uncovered artifacts that were from 50 years up to 12,000 years old according to Archeologist Andy Sewell with Lawhon Associates, an environmental engineering company.
Superintendent Robert Jennell said they want “to respect and preserve the history.” But it’s unclear what else might be uncovered in a second phase of the search.
Sewell said they will now bring a magnetometer to the 180 acres of land at Smoke Road and Route 40 owned by the district. It’s adjacent to the current high school and middle school. The results of that will give the experts an idea of where to look for more artifacts in the ground.
“Fire pits would be great because with fire pits you get stuff like charcoal which you can carbon date to get a precise date,” said Sewell.
“Human remains would probably delay a project but probably not stop it with these type of sites there is rarely stop, most you are looking at is slight delay.”
Southwest Licking will likely start construction this coming spring rather than the fall as planned to give the scientists time to look for any other important artifacts. The district is hoping to open the new high school on campus in summer 2021, and an elementary school in winter 2020.
The old high school would be renovated and used by the middle school according to the district.
“Archaeology is really the study of the past but it is really the study of things people make, said Sewell. “It doesn’t quite really matter how old it is but what kind of information can we get out of it.”
The artifacts now belong to the school district. Once the dig is complete, the superintendent said they will decide whether they should go on display or be turned over to a museum.
“You never know when you are going to find the next find that is actually going to be significant in local or even national history,” said Sewell.