SL School board hears more ideas on uses for soon-to-be- vacated elementary buildings

Friday, February 20, 2009

Input as to what should be done with the Storm Lake elementary buildings once they are no longer in use was heard at Monday's school board meeting.

Christina Rice shared she had attended West School so has some special connections there. She said while there is no magic wand to wave to dispose of the buildings there are things that they could be used for.

"Economically, selling the land for housing is tempting," she said but she strongly believes the "schools belong to the kids and should stay with them." She feels the city leaders, who set up the neighborhood schools many years ago, would agree.

Where West School sits, she said, would be ideal for a skate park. She also would like to see the playground equipment remain at the site for kids in the surrounding neighborhoods to use as they are quite a distance from any city parks.

"Financially, times are hard but they're never easy," Rice added.

Marcella Koth, who has been a teacher in the district since 1987, said if the buildings are demolished, she encourages anything salvageable to be retrieved first and used as a source of income. She likes the idea of selling bricks from the schools to those who have fond memories of the school buildings as a piece of lasting history.

"This is a tough decisions for the school board to make but I hope you will make appropriate decisions that are financially sound."

The school board has asked for ideas from the community as to what should be done with the buildings for the past two months; it is hoped a decision on the fate of one or more of the building can be made at the March meeting. Ideas are still being sought.

Several calls have been received by Superintendent Dr. Paul Tedesco and to school board members that a park should be created at the West School site.

Board member Barb Seiler said she inquired how much it would cost to take down a building the size of the old schools and was given a figure of about $175,000, not including the removal of asbestos which would cost $2-$2.50 per square foot to remove.

Board member Ed McKenna said he has received a few calls from realtors about the North building, which would be an ideal location for housing.

Board president Dan Douglas said he would like to be able to sell buildings and land giving new owners the responsibility of demolishing them.

McKenna said he would like to see in writing what the land and/or buildings would be used for. "We don't want a piece of junk there," he said.

Dr. Tedesco suggested that the school's building and trades class become involved in some type of project on the land.

Gary Lalone of Storm Lake Area Development Corporation, said the city could help, at no charge, by listing the properties on their website to see if anyone out of the area may be interested.

Some of the other ideas heard include:

* East - retain the building to use as an early childhood center

* South - retain it for the auditorium and gym needs. Allow CommUNITY Education activities to take place there, house district offices from the current Lake Avenue building, teach dual credit classes there, use it as an area ninth grade building or move the alternative school into the building and out of the metal building which sets next to the school building.

* West and North - demolish the buildings and sell the land for housing, sell the building to a developer to create apartments, establish a neighborhood park, talk to other governmental agencies in BV County about potential use of the facility.

Dr. Tedesco pointed out that any dollars received from sale of land or buildings (or even bricks) must go into the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy fund; it cannot go into the general fund.

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