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School district fast-tracks plans for elementary building

Former Prairie Elementary School building on Lewiston Street. The facility has been on the market since November 2011.

Photo by Laurie Chapman
Former Prairie Elementary School building on Lewiston Street. The facility has been on the market since November 2011.

— After Cottonwood City Council approved coordinating with Cottonwood Joint School District 242 (CJSD) for a feasibility study on the vacant elementary school building, CJSD pressed forward with plans. The application for the study must be submitted by March 17.

At the Wednesday, Feb. 22, school board meeting, the district received an update on progress toward improvements and potential sale of the site. Superintendent Rene Forsmann said the grant submitted in December was not approved, in part because the district had no defined purpose for the space.

“We’ve had a couple of offers [to purchase the building], but they were very minimal,” Forsmann said.

She said a team of local, state and federal staff and contractors have been invited to gather at the site, 907 Lewiston, March 14 and 15. Currently, representatives of St. Mary’s Hospital, local daycare providers, Ryan Uhlenkott and Jim Chmelik, among others all are on the invitee’s list. Forsmann, Christine Frei, executive director of CEDA; and Steve Gill, specialist with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, will be available to lead discussions.

Tours of the site and interviews will be held at the school to gather ideas on how to repurpose the building. The school board also agreed to host a public meeting at 7:30 p.m. March 15 at the former school to gather insight on what the community’s needs are. By determining sectors in need of strengthening, the district can work with Clearwater Economic Development Association, the Environmental Protection Agency and the city to develop potential uses for the site.

“Come hell or high water we’re going to do something with that building,” Forsmann said.

She also said if they can develop a clear purpose, the chance of securing the Brownfield project grant it previously submitted would increase greatly. The Brownfield project grant would provide needed funding to remove the asbestos from the facility.

Building history

  • The building was constructed in 1956 and was originally St. Joseph’s Elementary School, said Lori Mader, Idaho Country Properties. In 1970 it was renamed Prairie Elementary and was used as a primary education building until 2011.
  • In January 2010, the Free Press reported CJSD proposed the closure because of dwindling enrollment and funding reductions. An 18-month timeline was given to transition elementary students to the middle school building on East Street. Seventh- and eighth-grade students would move to Prairie High School.
  • The elementary building has been on the market since November 2011.


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