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April 4, 2014     Hidalgo County Herald
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6 HIDALGO COUNTY HERALD FRIDAY, APRIL 4, 2014 LHS hosts 2014 Basketball awards March 31 Fabian DeLaO and Jaime Artiaga- JV Most Valuable Players Derik Martinez-Fighting Heart and Adam Murillo-lron Man Award Mark Thomas-Most Improved Not pictured, Raymond Saucedo- Outstanding Floor General Jacob Esquivel- Offensive Player of the Year Ben Strain-Defensive Player of the Year Jessica Sanchez-lron Maiden and 4th Year Letter and Monet Neave-3~ Year Letter Johnny Plowman-Best All Around Photos courtesy JAMIE DIAZ/Lordsburg tion This story is a shining example of what can be accomplished when the entire community works together, including school and city officials, to save and repurpose historic landmark schools. Mass demolition of historic school buildings is not the best or smartest solution. Small towns find new uses for old school buildings Old schools, the hearts of many small towns, are finding new lives By NICK HYTREK, Sioux City Journal staff writer. Reprinted with permission. Children's voices echo again in the Danbury, Ohio school gym- nasium, though not as often as they once did. The basketball court hosts athletic contests that might not carry the importance of high school volleyball and basketball games that formerly took place in a gym that would be considered small by today's standards. But the gym, and the rest of the former school build- ing, still stands, a fact that makes Danbury residents happy. 'q think it's real important. It's such a landmark in Danbury," City Council member Dave Colbert said. "I had one guy tell me 'I can't imagine coming back to Danbury and not having that (school building) there.'" It's often said that schools are the heart of a small town. They're not just brick and mortar, but a "community gathering place dur- ing Christmas programs, gradua- tions, basketball games. Declir~ing enrollment and consolidation have emptied many of these schools~in small towns across Siouxland. For years, school districts have had to decide what to do with large, vacant buildings after classes have been dismissed for good. "My board's biggest issue was they wanted the building to stay used," said Julie DeStigter, superintendent of River Valley Community School District in Correctionville, Iowa. The dis- trict in May closed its building in Cushing for financial reasons. Finding a buyer for an old school isn't always easy. Tearing down the building is easy, but unpopular when considering the commtinity often is already un- happy that the school is no longer open. "They forget it a little quicker that we closed their buildings" if an alternate use is found, said Steve Oberg, superintendent of both the Maple Valley and Anthon-Oto school districts. His school boards have closed schools in Danbury and Castana, Iowa. "It was always our preference to use those buildings. Demoli- tion was the last straw," Oberg said. The wrecking ball never swung on either building, al- though Danbury narrowly avoided it. Sunday nights during the winter, the old Danbury school gym comes to life. An adult vol- leyball league brings dozens of people back inside the building in which many attended classes. It's just one of the many ways Danbury residents improve their physical condition inside the building. A batting cage com- plete with pitching machine has been erected on the stage. Walk to the former kindergarten and Hidalgo County Heritage Society Save Our Building Help Restore the Enrichment Center for mote information call (575) 542-9716 ot email hchedtages6ciety~yahoo.com music room and you'll find weight machines, stationary bikes, treadmills and other, exer- cise equipment. The former lunchroomnow houses a pool table, video games, big-screen TV, table tennis and a microwave. For four years, the first floor and gymnasium of the old school have served as a commu- nity and recreation center. It's been a big hit in the town of 384 people, with more than 130 an- nual memberships sold. "It was all generated from the idea that we wanted to save the building," Colbert said. Built in 1929 with additions along the way, the school had been closed the previous May because the Maple Valley school district no longer needed the space. The city of Danbury stepped in and bought the build- , ing and the seven acres on which it sits from the school district for $1. The Danbury Community Club then developed the recre- ation center idea. The gymna- sium is available for receptions and family reunions. It's been home to Bible studies, flea mar- kets and is the site of the variety show during the community's annual Corn Days celebration. The city is still considering what to do with the old school's still-vacant second and third floors. "The key will be to get something on those other two floors," Colbert said. City lead- ers would like to see businesses or perhaps some type of apart- ments developed. "We want to try listing the second and third floors on the Internet, to buy or lease those floors," Colbert said. That's how Castana's old school found new life. Putting a school up for bids on e-Bay wasn't a new idea when the Maple Valley school board decided to try to dispose of its Castana build, ing over the Internet. "We had heard of it from a district in Kansas," Superinten- dent Oberg said. "We had adver- tised locally and had n9 interest.,' The district put the school on e- Bay and asked for sealed bids and a detailed plan of how each bid- der would use the building. Since 1936, that building had educated children at its hill- top location in this Monona County town of 178 people. But the Maple Valley voters sealed its fate in 2003, when they approved a $7 million bond issue that would build new buildings down the road in Mapleton and lead to the closure of the Castana school. In May 2004, students left the building for the last time. Within months, a new business was tak- ing shape inside the halls. David Askew, vice president of ISOCAM Technologies Inc., had been looking for a new site to replace an aging building at company headquarters in Trimont, Minn. After losing out on an Internet auction for another old school, Askew returned to e- Bay to find a second one. Old schools work well for businesses, he said. "They tend to have been well-maintained and tend to have been well-constructed," he said. He submitted a sealed bid of $10,000. Though the Maple Val- ley school board received higher offers, ISOCAM's business plan was appealing. It awarded the bid to ISOCAM. "It was a no-brainer at the time" to buy th~ building, Askew said. "We needed a building that didn't need major repairs initially. It's a very, very solid building; It's just in great condition." ISOCAM moved in Septem- ber 2004. The company, which services and soon will manufac- ture nuclear medicine imaging cameras, began transforming the school into an office building while maintaining some of the school's characteristics. "The woodwork is gorgeous," Askew said. The fifth-grade room was converted into Askew's office and a reception area. Two other class- rooms are used to store parts. An- other is used to build the work- stations that accompany the im- aging cameras. Areas of the sed- ond floor have been renovated into two apartments for Askew and another employee. Trade se- crets are stored in the old vault. Inside the former cafeteria stand imaging cameras in various stages of repair. It's an ideal room, Askew said, for such a service. As ISOCAM grows, the school will continue to evolve into an office building and remain the home of the service department and pos- sibly the computer software de- velopment department. "It's good. It works very well," Askew said. Owners of the former school in Moorhead, Iowa, have heard similar comments. Real estate broker Rod Foutch of Missouri Valley, Iowa, has heard a litany of possible uses for the Moorhead school building. Mini mall. Sum- mer wrestling camp. Shelter for battered and homeless women. Cabinet manufacturing. "We've been getting calls from anybody and everybody. It's been interest- ing," said Foutch, who, with his partner Lary Clark, bought the building from the West Harrison Community School District for $15,600. West Harrison had inherited the building after the state awarded it 38 percent of the East Monona school district, which dissolved in 2004. The board had no idea what to do with its "new" building, which had been built in the 1920s or '30s. It was briefly considered as an elementary school site or the home to a voca- tional center for welding and mechanics. The board decided neither oPtion was worth the cost of operating an old building. The only other option was selling it. "(The board) felt it was too good a building to be torn down. They thought there was too much po- tential," West Harrison Superin- tendent Richard Gerking said. Foutch said he and Clark considered it an investment op- portunity. "I know there's people that turn (old schools) into apart- ments, living quarters," he said. They'd already sold an old school in nearby Pisgah to a woman who makes commercials and music videos there. The Moorhead building is listed for sale for $159,000. So far there have been no takers. Some are reluctant to start a busi- ness in this town of 232 people, about an hour away from Omaha. But Foutch is confident the building's excellent physical condition will attract a buyer. See SMALLTOWN on Page 7 IA FRONTERik NEW MEXICO Solution to DOUBLE-DUTY WORDS Puzzled that appeared in the March 28, 2014 edition At Wh "Overdoses involving prescription pain killers are at epidemic levels and now kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined." Source:Thomas Frieden, CDC Director FOR MORE INFORMATION REGARDING PRESCRIPTION PREVENTION SER" VICES, SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREAT" ' OR FOR SAFE DISPOSAL OF [ MENT, PRESCRIPTION NEDICATION, PLEASE I CONTACT EDGAR GOMEZ AT I (575) 542- 3304 OR I EDGAR.GOMEZ@LAFRONTERA,0RG