Josina Lott and the Lott School
By Mary Koslovsky (July 2004) and Cathy Seitz Whitaker (August 2005)
Josina Jones Lott believed that every child, regardless of physical or mental limitations, had ability and could learn. She began Lott Day School in her apartment in September of 1938. Mrs. Lott had seen children turned away from the public schools because parents were told that there was no place for them in the classroom. She was determined to educate every child in the basics of “…the alphabet, reading, and simple arithmetic.” Her school started with one student and quickly grew to fifteen as word of her work spread within the community. The pastor of nearby Rosewood Presbyterian Church invited her to use the Sunday school rooms in the basement of the building to accommodate the increasing enrollment. After five years, the school grew to fifty-five pupils and had outgrown the church basement.
Mrs. Lott gained the support of a small group of influential people, who became the first Board of Directors of Lott Day School in 1945. The school was legally incorporated in 1946 and rented a former school building located at Heffner and Kelsey Streets. At some point after moving into the new building, Mrs. Lott asked the school auxiliary for $170 to start a sheltered workshop for students who had reached their limit of academic achievement but were unable to work and help support themselves. This was one of the first vocational programs in the United States aimed at training young adults in skills that would allow them to work and earn a living, thus becoming more independent members of society. It was decided to use the school auditorium as the sheltered workshop room. The workshop continued to grow, and a separate facility was eventually built to accommodate the growing number of trainees. At that time, it was the only workshop of its kind specifically for the developmentally disabled adult that was built with taxpayer money.
In 1951, the Ohio State Legislature recognized the fact that there were no programs in the public schools for the trainable developmentally disabled child. Legislation was passed allowing training classes for these children and placed the administration of such community classes with the Child Welfare Boards. In 1957, a tax levy was passed in Lucas County that included support for Lott Day School. In 1958, the Lucas County Child Welfare Board took over the financial control of the school. It was renamed Heffner School, but Josina Jones Lott remained principal of the school and the sheltered workshop.
When Lott Day School merged with the Lucas County Child Welfare Board, services for developmentally disabled children expanded through the building of Larc Lane School and the opening of Tracy School in a former Toledo Public School building. A growing awareness of the need for such specialized services resulted in the passage of a countywide tax levy in 1959 that would provide education and training to developmentally disabled children in Lucas County. With new funding came the building of the Larc Lane School, the use of other buildings in the county, and developing diversity in the services that were provided (e.g. summer camp and a residential camp). Federal grant money was obtained that also helped expand services to residents of Lucas County.
What Josina Jones Lott began in 1938 has grown into a multi-organizational approach to helping mentally and physically challenged individuals. Northwest Ohio now has many organizations, such as the Lucas County Association for Retarded Citizens, the Lucas County Board for Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, Lott Industries, and the Northwest Ohio Developmental Center.
Mary Koslovsky, July 2004. This exhibit is drawn from material in the Josina Lott archives of the Ward M. Canaday Center of the University of Toledo. [MSS-186 Collection finding aid]
Student Remembers: John Polaski