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Cottonwood residents meet, discuss school building’s potential

Fate of former Prairie Elementary; option for community center

Fourteen people turned out last Tuesday, March 14, to hear suggestions about potential uses for the former Prairie Elementary School building. The evening meeting was hosted by Cottonwood Joint School District 242.

Photo by Laurie Chapman
Fourteen people turned out last Tuesday, March 14, to hear suggestions about potential uses for the former Prairie Elementary School building. The evening meeting was hosted by Cottonwood Joint School District 242.



— Fourteen residents attended a meeting hosted by the Cottonwood Joint School District 242 Tuesday, March 14, to hear suggestions about potential uses for the former elementary school building. Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Clearwater Economic Development Association and the district were on hand to answer questions.

Currently, the district is evaluating potential uses to aid in a feasibility study. Eventually, all information will assist in writing another grant application to fund asbestos removal in the building.

“Our role is to identify what our options are,” said Michael Taylor, president of consulting firm Vita Nuova. “Tonight, our goal is to hear from you.”

The two-hour discussion included an informal presentation by Cottonwood resident Daniel Sigler. Sigler was the only community member to suggest a specific use for the site.

His proposal offered the Council Grove Life Center, in Council Grove, Kan., as an example of potential use for the site. He suggested the health and wellness center could house a day-care facility, which he said is a necessity in the community.

Sigler works for CHS Primeland and said he has seen the company lose candidates for employment because there is a lack of daycare options. He also said as a parent he has concerns with the lack of options in the community.

Along with young child care, housing for the elderly was another community concern raised at the meeting. Resident Laurie Karel said some families have had to move their parents to Boise because of a lack of housing in Cottonwood.

CJSD trustee Pat Alfrey asked whether it would be a viable option for the school board to serve as a landlord for the site. Christine Frei, CEDA executive director, said the first step really is to find the purpose for the building.

Another suggestion was to have the district lease out the building with an option to own. The idea was to keep the building in use versus sitting vacant and deteriorating. CJSD board chair Gus Hoene said the idea had previously been discussed.

“We represent you,” he said. “Whatever you say is on the table, is on the table.”

Aside from the community discussion, the district met with community members individually March 14 and 15. Tours of the facility were given to interested parties.

Following the meeting, Taylor said his company will compile all ideas presented over the two days. He expects to have a report compiled within the next 30 days to present the district. It will include what options were presented and what would be required to evolve those ideas.

“This process was really good for me and I think it’s good for the board,” Superintendent Rene Forsmann said. “It gives us an idea of what we should look at to keep these things moving.”



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