The Orange School District, consisting of 25 square miles, a population of 14,000+ and eight political jurisdictions has unique differences relative to geography and historic community identities. However, within each of the villages and cities which make up the greater Orange District are residents who share a common desire for communication, cohesiveness and a sense of one community. In response to those feelings and needs, the Orange Community Education & Recreation Department was founded in 1973 with the support of the Orange Board of Education and $30,000 in seed money from the communities of Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. A citizen community concept committee worked with the school district and communities to develop the community education and recreation program concept for the district. The program was formally established with the passage of a .5 mill, five-year community education and recreation operating levy in June 1975. This time period was marked by rapid program growth and increased community demand for services, classes and recreational activities.
The Orange Schools Campus emerged as the district's community center. During this same period, the Orange Community Education & Recreation Commission was formed and an inter-agency council of community, civic and school organizations - the Federation of Orange Communities - was also formed.
Orange Community Education & Recreation set up shop on the Orange Schools Campus and continued to develop and coordinate an increasing number of community educational enrichment and recreational programs and services both on the school campus and in the community. In 1977, the department was awarded a three-year, $42,000 community education grant from the Gund Foundation and became a model community education district for the Ohio Department of Education. The department was also named Ohio's only model training site for other communities and school districts in the state. Campus Locations In 1984, as part of the Orange School's reorganization plan, Pepper Pike Elementary School on the Orange campus was converted into the community's first-ever Community Center. However, in 1988, due to increasing student enrollment, the Pepper Pike building was reclaimed and reopened as one of the district's elementary schools.
Over the next ten years, Orange Community Education & Recreation offices moved to a small, renovated facility on the school's North Campus while programs of the department continued to operate at all the school sites on campus and later moved to the lower level of Orange High School. Due to increased demand for school program space, the Orange Early Childhood Preschool even moved from its Pepper Pike School location to modular classrooms units purchased by the department!
A Permanent Home
In November 1998, as the Orange School District passed their bond issue for a new elementary school, plans formulated to renovate the old Pepper Pike School into a new shared school and community resource facility. The Orange Community Education & Recreation staff and Commission worked closely with the Orange Board of Education in planning the reconfiguration of this facility which would also become the new permanent home of the Orange Community Education & Recreation Department. The Board of Education and Orange Community Education & Recreation shared the cost of renovation of the facility. The department moved into the facility in September, 2001, and the building was formally dedicated as the Pepper Pike Learning Center in February 2002. The Pepper Pike Learning Center now houses Orange Community Education & Recreation's administrative offices and its Early Childhood Preschool, Youth, Stagecrafters' and Adult Education programs and offices.
Community Partnerships and Growth
In 1997, the local Kiwanis Club spearheaded efforts to raise funds to expand and remodel the Orange Senior Center to further serve senior adults in the community. The building was completed in November of 1999 and continues today as a thriving location for adult recreation and activity and senior services. the remodeling of the original building was completed.
At about the same time, the department formed a planning committee to address issues related to the existing, aging outdoor pool and to address the feasibility of building a new outdoor community pool. The original outdoor pool, funded by the local Kiwanis Club, was built in 1956. The Outdoor Pool Planning Committee, which included community members, and Orange Community Education & Recreation staff and Commission, spent three years researching and planning a leisure pool concept for the community. In September 2002, a ground breaking ceremony on the Orange Campus marked the beginning of construction of the department's new Outdoor Community Leisure Pool that opened June 14, 2003.
In 2016, the Orange Art Center was incorporated into Orange Community Education & Recreation. The Art Center, located on campus just west of Orange High School, was renovated and now shines as an important local spot for artists of all experience levels to learn, master and discover fine art mediums.
Over the past 45 years, Orange Community Education & Recreation has emerged as a state and national leader in community education and recreation. It has become an integral and vital part of the greater Orange district. The growth of programs and services from just a handful to over a thousand activities and classes serving over 13,000 participants each year demonstrates residents' recognition of the extent to which community education and recreation enhances the overall quality of life.