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History, Mission and Core Values

Young boy crosses the crossway on campus

Founded in 1920, Old Trail School's more than 100 years of existence encompasses a remarkable history of foresight; idealism; trials and tribulations; incredible success; several campuses; and, most importantly the lives of thousands of children impacted, influenced and nurtured by its care and passion.

Old Trail owes its existence to its founders, Dr. William C. Geer and Dr. William A. Parks, and a cast of supporters and pioneering parents who believed in the grand experiment of creating a new learning environment.

This novel environment would courageously diverge from the rote memorization and standardized practices that were common in public school systems at the time and instead emphasize the importance of each individual child to think, create, reason and understand themselves in a larger, more significant, context.

A historical classroom photo from 1930.
A new learning environment

Old Trail was founded in 1920 by a two visionary men and a cast of supporters who were simply searching for a better model of education for their children.

An old prospectus from the school states: "Old Trail's basic teaching concept of stimulating the child to learn and grow from his or her own experience in doing by providing leadership and encouragement to the pupil or student with the minimum of compulsion, regulation and regimentation has proven its great worth throughout the years as a most effective method in the development of the individual person." 

One century later, these same experiential learning ideals remain at the heart of the OTS experience.

An ECP student holds a magnifying glass outdoors.
Our Mission

Old Trail School is a vibrant educational community focused on academic excellence. We develop intellectually curious, independent-thinking students who emerge with a passion for discovery, critical thinking and collaborative learning.

Our Core Values

By recognizing Old Trail's remarkable history, we honor the countless proponents of Old Trail—including undaunted leaders, devoted parents, gifted and dedicated faculty, alumnae and alumni, grandparents and friends of the school—who have contributed greatly to ensuring the school's success, and to the many more who will continue to do so into the future. 

Like today, Old Trail in the 1920s attracted the best and brightest educators. Many came from different parts of the country to teach at a school that was quickly establishing a reputation with its unique and innovative curriculum and philosophy of instruction. These teachers, too, sacrificed, and agreed to reduced pay or to go without pay on occasion of financial stress to ensure the school’s future.

Exterior shot of Old Trail School's Covington Road campus in Akron in 1926.
Covington Road Campus

For many, the move to the Fairlawn Heights campus in 1926 was a symbol of the school’s future—permeance, stability, innovation and child-focused. This was also the campus that educated countless girls and young women that graduated from Old Trail when it was an all-girls high school. Their love for OTS remains, and they often discuss and laugh about their favorite teachers, friends and experiences that shaped them.

Dreaming Big

Old Trail’s move to its current location in Bath in 1967 proved to be just as consequential.

Although the transition preceded the creation of what would become the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the school’s place in the Valley immediately impacted its students and the OTS experience. The natural world surrounding campus facilitated a special experience where the ideas of the founders were emphasized, and students thrived. In more than 40 years at its current campus, countless capital improvements have enhanced what it means to be at Old Trail. The Harrington Center, The Sisler McFawn Hall, the Harrington-McLaughlin Athletic Center, The Merryweather Outdoor Classroom, the nature-based playscapes, and the improvements on the farm are several that speak to the legacy of our founders, their vision, and the unflagging support of the Old Trail community.

As we think about and honor the history of Old Trail School, our gratitude is owed to the individuals who believed in and advocated for the school when it needed champions and supporters who had the boldness to try something new. These individuals ensured a remarkable and dynamic school would thrive as the child-centered institution it continues to be today. 

Affiliations and Accreditation

Logos for the NAIS, ISACS and OAIS organizations