Demolition an option for Jasper elementary schools


JASPER — As construction quickly wraps up on the new Jasper Elementary School, the fate of two of the district’s current elementary buildings remains up in the air.

Though other options do exist, should the Greater Jasper School Board elect to do so, all or parts of both Fifth Street and Tenth Street elementary could ultimately be demolished.

Following a monthly school board meeting on Monday night, Superintendent Tracy Lorey explained that a final decision on the long-standing structures won’t be made until 2021 at the earliest.

“At the end of the day, there is a potential that we could recommend for our board to consider demolition of a portion, or all [of them],” she said. “It’s really just going to depend on where we get with the assessment of how we could potentially use [them] going forward.”

Outside of razing the soon-to-be-vacated spaces, Lorey said the corporation has explored “alternative uses” for the buildings. Greater Jasper has a commingled deed with the Catholic Diocese of Evansville on the Tenth Street building and is working with the religious entity to determine how both parties can move forward in a mutually beneficial manner.

“Really, for the Tenth Street side, I feel like, most likely, that building will no longer exist,” Lorey said. “And we will try to put in some community parking that will service Ruxer Field, which will be a much-needed support for not only that athletic field, but could also serve a dual-purpose for St. [Joseph] Parish and any of their needs.”

At Fifth Street, conversations are ongoing with outside entities who might be interested in using the newer portion of the school. To date, however, nothing has been solidified.

“There are lots of things to consider with that,” Lorey said of that structure, which is located near Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium. “In terms of the viability of the facility, what needs they would have, and the funds that they would have to be able to sink into it.”

The school district’s needs will also factor into the decision. The need for more parking near the football stadium already exists.

Should the board decide to bring down the buildings, demolition costs would be paid for with bond dollars. Quotes have not been collected and Lorey didn’t know the exact amount it would cost to take them down, but a rough estimate suggests it could be “right around $1 million” total, she said.

Lorey stressed that the corporation has “really tried to explore other options for those locations.” But at the end of the day, if they can’t be repurposed in different ways, “then we don’t want to leave a blighted building that’s not being used in the community. So, decisions will have to be made about what to do with those sites if we don’t get to that point.”

Those decisions won’t be made soon. Lorey said the board is “at least a year away from any movement on any final solutions.” She hopes that when teachers move out of the old buildings in the early summer, the ball will really get moving on the planning.

“The first thing is we need to finish school,” she said. “And we need to get students and stuff moved to Jasper Elementary this summer. Then, we’ll continue to go on from there.”

Both the Fifth Street and Tenth Street buildings are plagued with issues that prompted the district’s school board to sign off on moving out of them. Their current mechanical systems are unrepairable and flooding has been a recurring problem at both. Lorey explained that fixing the schools was not cost-effective.

“I can’t tell you how many times we’ve bailed water out of those schools, which results in high humidity, which then results in mold,” she said. “And so, over the years, we’ve had to remediate mold, we continue to mop water out of them whenever we have heavy rains.”

Students at both Fifth Street and Tenth Street will be merged under one roof at Jasper Elementary School when classes begin on Aug. 12. Construction is on pace to make that a reality.

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