The future of Alta's old high school

Friday, September 21, 2012

The future of the 1916 Alta High School was discussed at a community meeting Monday. In attendance were administrators Lynn Evans and Tom Ryherd, the Alta School Board and 12 members of the community.

Supt. Evans led the meeting.

School buildings, he said, provides a community shared history and shared sentimental attachment.

The 1916 building is a solid structure with masonry walls, concrete floors (floor one and two with the third floor made of wood), like most schools built pre-WWII.

The structure had two additions through the years. One included the construction of a two-story gym and stage and the other expanded the vocation space.

When planning for sharing with Aurelia in 2009, and discussing where the students would be educated, an architect was brought in to access the building and gave the school board an estimate for renovation, looked at the code compliance and identified deficiencies.

The structural, mechanical, and electrical systems were also looked at.

Some of the issues brought up that the architects found needed attention were the electrical system, the boiler, the ventilation, the climate controls and the lighting. The building does not meet American Disabilities Act codes and there is asbestos throughout the building.

To renovate the building, the architects further stated, would cost an estimated $1.2 million - and that did not include updating the ventilation, air quality or climate control.

As this was an estimate made three years ago, those costs may have increased.

In 2009, estimates were also obtained for how much it would cost to raze the building. At that time, it was estimated that asbestos removal would cost $133,600 and demolition would cost $148,500 for an estimated cost of $300,000.

Currently, the building is being used to house two 4-year-old classrooms and a Head Start classroom, as well as the superintendent/central office. The building also still holds some custodial supplies.

The gym is used by the pre-school classes and for practices and even junior high volleyball games while the gym renovation at the Aurelia building are being completed.

Supt. Evans added that the classrooms and office area could be moved to the elementary/high school but he feels it is important to use the building rather than leave it empty as that has a worse affect on a building.

Granted, it is costing $8,500 annually to insure the building and it is still costing $25,000 (on average) for utilities. Keep in mind that custodial work is still needed at the building as well as annual maintenance.

The school board has discussed four options:

* keeping the gym and the shop area

* repurposing the building

* selling it

* razing

The school board will not make any decisions without getting input from the community. This was the first of the public meetings; it is hoped more people will be able to attend the second meeting which will be scheduled for later this fall.

It was asked if there is a time line and Supt. Evans said there is not.

"We want to see how these meetings go. We don't want people to get the impression that their voices don't count," he said.

He added that school officials want to be careful how they sell the the building, if it would come to that decision.

They would not want to see someone purchase the building and get half way through a project and walk away from it and neither would they want to leave an empty building in the the middle of the town; both would bring about bad feelings of seeing an eye sore every time it was passed.

Supt. Evans also pointed out that if it were decided that the building would be demolished, an auction would be held to give people a chance at purchasing cabinetry trim, doors and floors throughout the building to get some costs back.

Anyone with ideas on what to do with the building are encouraged to attend the next meeting (date will be announced in the Pilot Tribune when set) or to call Supt. Evans at 200-1010.