Archive for Thursday, December 13, 2001

Middle school’s fate discussed

December 13, 2001

This holiday season it isn't just children making wish lists. Some in the Eudora community are already dreaming of ways groups could use the middle school building when students move out in 2003 thanks to the construction of a new high school.

But Mayor Ron Conner doesn't want daydreamers to get too far ahead of themselves, especially since it's still school district property.

"The discussions have so far been very, very preliminary," Conner said.

Regardless of how the building is used, whether it is as a community center or new city offices, Conner said he thought it was sure to get continued use.

"We've got to figure out what that is," he said. "Once it gets a little farther down the road and the school district decides how they want to handle it, we can eventually evaluate what our needs are."

School district

But even if the city eventually uses the facility as a community center, the Eudora school district could still use parts of the building, said Superintendent Marty Kobza.

Right now, Kobza said, the district is interested in the annex. Depending on a person's generation, he said, the community knew the facility as a bus building, a weight room and a shop. The district could use the area for shipping and receiving or storage.

Other aspects of the facility could house needed office space for the district or educational programs, like preschool or adult classes. In addition, the district could also use the gymnasium for a practice area, he said.

Although Kobza said he sees potential for other areas of the building, like the kitchen and cafeteria, which could provide a place for senior citizen meals or a venue for family reunions and other community events, the city might want upgrades, like adding air conditioning.

"We're going to do everything we can to update and maintain the building while it's still in our possession," Kobza said.

Furthermore, a downtown development grant, which the Eudora Chamber of Commerce is working on securing, could provide the money necessary for upgrades, Kobza said.

Parks and recreation

At a long-range planning meeting in early October, community members listed uses for the middle school as issues and objectives for parks and recreation. Ideas included turning the school into a museum, research center and community center.

But Parks and Recreation Director Dianna Beebe has ideas narrowed down more than that.

"As your population grows, hopefully there will be more and more (activities)," she said.

Having the gymnasium, classroom and outdoor space at the school could help her expand sports and activities the department offers.

"Certainly, we could use the gym and probably more space on that back side where there are basketball goals," Beebe said. "That would be an ideal place at some point in the future to be adding gym space."

Added gym space could mean including men's volleyball leagues, adult basketball leagues, indoor hockey and soccer, and clinics during the winter. Having the building could benefit the community during the winter in another way, too. It could include a course allowing walkers to use stairs and hallways when inclement weather and shortened daylight hours keep would-be walkers indoors.

"It's really hard in the winter, especially ifwe have bad weather," Beebe said. "It's certainly an indoor workout facility."

Beebe is also thinking beyond sports, too. With classroom space the department could offer other types of recreation, like arts and crafts classes, and continuing education classes such as personal finance.

"It's a historical building, and you certainly, if at all possible, would like to keep as much of the structure," Beebe said.

Another model

Converting old school buildings to suit other uses is nothing new. De Soto's 1920s-era building, which served as both a high school and middle school, now houses city offices and provides the city with storage space.

Before Eudora voters passed a $16 million bond in November for a new high school, allowing middle school students to move into the 1995 high school building, some in the community opened a dialogue about what might happen to the 1950s-era middle school.

Although De Soto uses its building differently than Eudorans might use the middle school building, De Soto successfully preserved the structure and got added space for the city.

Former De Soto City Administrator Gerald Cooper said discussion about the future of the building went on for about five years prior to moving in.

"The city had a preliminary study done some time ago, but that really didn't come to anything," Cooper said. "Shortly after I arrived we got started on a new design and hired an architect and passed a bond issue."

That bond issue built the current De Soto High School, leaving the 1920s building, then used as a middle school, vacant. The city converted about 7,000 square feet on the building's second floor for office space, leaving the first and third floors for storage.

The city's renovations included installing new climate control, electrical work and fire protection. Yet Cooper estimated the cost of renovating was about 75 cents on the dollar compared to the construction of a new city office building.

Moreover, the community got what it wanted. Cooper said people were happy to see the old building getting some use.

"We had a lot of compliments," he said.

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