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Ay-eye’ worries about years to come

AI, Ohio — People who live in this crossroads community with an unusual name are worried that the village could lose its identity when their only school closes in January.

The 280 students at the elementary school will move to a new building in a nearby town.

Ai (AY-eye) has no businesses or post office and just one church, and the school has been the center of life for many years in the town about 20 miles west of Toledo.

“I don’t know if the school closing will mean the end of Ai,” said Meliessa King. “Maybe. Families with kids might not want to move here.”

Mike Turner, a resident for five years, agreed.

“Don’t know who will want to move out here. I wouldn’t want to move here if there’s no school,” he said.

The community long ago was a center of activity with a cider mill, post office, general store, grist mill, two blacksmith shops and cobbler’s shop. Some locals say there also were nearly a dozen saloons.

How the town got its name isn’t clear.

Some say settlers named Ai after a town in the Bible that was destroyed by an army. Others say it’s from when an early settler, Ami Richards, tried to name the town after himself.

Now all that is left is a 134-lot mobile home park and about 30 homes.

Arlene Stoup said residents are “pretty well-established,” and people won’t leave town just because the students leave town to go to school. “I’m not going to move my home.”

The school is starting to show some wear and tear.

“It’s getting pretty dilapidated,” said custodian Terry Woodbury. “It creaks and moans. There’s bigger and bigger cracks in the walls.”

It will be sad when the school closes, said Chris Chandler, 13, who went to grade school at the school.

“It’s a nice school. It’s too bad. People volunteer there and work there. They won’t be doing that anymore.”

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