Board takes first look at empty school

Meeker’s board of trustees will have their first look at the recently vacated Main Street elementary school building tonight. The school district, which opened the new elementary school in August, will formally turn over the keys to the old building at the April 19 board meeting. Tonight’s meeting will be the first opportunity for board members to see the building officially empty.
The town of Meeker, which owns both the building and the property, has leased the school building to the school district at a nominal fee since 1939. The stone building was constructed as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. The WPA is considered the most ambitious part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. Enacted in 1935, the WPA poured Federal funding into building parks, bridges, schools and roads, along with many other activities. The WPA was an effort to provide jobs and put people back to work during the staggering unemployment of the Great Depression.
With the new elementary school on Sulphur Creek Road open, the town is now solely responsible for the old school site and eager to put it to productive use.
Following a walk-through of the building, board members will meet in a retreat format “to discuss the process the board will use to find a potential reuse of the building,” according to Town Administrator Sharon Day.
In recent months, trustees have taken “field trips” to Carbondale, Colo., and Palisade, Colo., to look at the refurbishing of old schools in those communities and gather information about how those projects were funded, etc.
Fueled with that knowledge and armed with official reports about the structural and environmental status of the building, the board is ready “to focus on the elementary school, the most pressing challenge,” Day said. (Copies of those reports are available for public review at  Town Hall.)
While all board meetings (except executive sessions) are open to the public, in order to give board members a chance to focus specifically on what steps to take next, no public input will be received and no official decisions will be made by the board at tonight’s meeting.
“The town board will definitely be inviting public comment during future meetings as they have in the past, once they have determined a process or path,” Day said.
The board retreat will begin at 6 p.m. this evening, April 14, at the Main Street Elementary School.