Various organizations were represented at a public discussion Monday evening about future uses of Syracuse Elementary School.
A few residents, corporation staff, members of Lake Area Community Band and Rock Solid after-school program, Syracuse Parks Dept. and Town Manager Henry DeJulia were invited by Superintendent Tom Edington to suggest possible uses of the school, scheduled to become empty when students move into a new elementary school August 2017.
Corporation attorney James Flecker started the conversation with legal information – what is required by state law when a school building is vacated. First, the administration must inform the state Department of Education to be put on a list of “empty buildings.” This list is made available to interested parties, such as charter schools, and the vacated school remains on that list for two years.
Although there are many other details in the state law regarding renting or selling the building, Flecker said basically “the governing body may exchange it,” meaning it could be sold. Selling price would be 90 percent of the average of two appraisals.
Facility Manager Bob Lahrman described the condition of the school, noting that it is good and mechanicals have been updated. “Everything we’ve done with the other building, we’ve done with this one,” said Edington.
Utility costs for the building total $9,300 a month.
The superintendent asked one of the founders of the North Webster Community Center to explain how that facility came to be. Jon Sroufe, board member of NWCC, K21 and North Webster town council president, said that a not-for-profit corporation was instituted which purchased the building from the school corporation. The selling price was $1.
Contributions came in to the sum of around $800,000, $400,000 from a matching Dekko grant, and $500,000 from the state. After renovations costing $1.4 million, the center is up and running and is solvent. Income comes from rent from the library, YMCA, senior center and a couple private businesses.
The center is also rented for weddings and community events.
DeJulia said the town was interested in turning the school into some kind of cultural art center or joining it with the riverfront district. “We could have arts as long as we don’t mess with the gym,” joked Edington.
Other suggestions included using the music room for the community band; renting space to Rock Solid to hold after-school events every day; and using the gym for community events.
Edington raised the possibility of using space for the alternative school The Crossing. Right now around six students attend that program in Ligonier and more go to Nappanee, he said. The present alternative school could move over to Syracuse Elementary because its present location is temporary anyway, he added. The corporate office might also move there and use its current building for alternative school.
One other possibility, he said, is to use only The Crossing as alternative school.
Concluding that there were many ideas on the table, Edington suggested everyone think about the possibilities and come together at a later date to discuss them further.
“We’re on a journey and it’s a nice problem to have,” he said.
(Story By The Times Union)