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School house still standing, for now

Council holds off on a staff request to tear down the building while the city studies sites for an art center
by: Anthony Roberts, Sherwood's old school house

Sherwood City Council tabled a motion to tear down the dilapidated but historic old school house in March, though councilors still seemed resigned to demolishing the building in the future.

Council decided to hold off on a decision for two reasons: for city staff and the cultural arts commission to develop a feasibility study investigating which Old Town sites are best for a cultural arts center; and to allow the public a chance to offer input on the building.

From their comments though, it was clear that it would take an extraordinary effort to save the building.

"If you asked us ... Do you think the building is going to come down, we might all sadly say yes," Councilor Dave Luman said.

Still, council President Dave Grant said it would be smart to hold off on a decision until the cultural arts center feasibility study is complete. Members of the cultural arts commission believe the sight of the building - with or without the school house standing - could be the best site for a cultural arts center within the Urban Renewal District.

"We can send a better message to the citizens if we go ahead with the action plan first," Grant said. "I think we have a little more time than tonight on this."

Councilor Lee Weislogel agreed. He said he couldn't justify tearing the building down with the arts center site so uncertain.

"For me there's got to be something to go to rather than just taking something down," he said.

While councilors seemed resigned to the building's fate, some members of the public spoke in favor of restoring the building. About a half dozen showed up in support of the building. They were represented by Sherwood historian June Reynolds, who had gathered stories from residents about the school.

"The reason why we save things with a history is that those things represent our collective memory, Reynolds said. 'Those old buildings, which stand in our town, represent our collective identity."

Pam McCormick, a member of the Cultural Arts commission, said she knew someone in real estate who is interested in developing the building, though she admitted the arts center is still interested in the sight.

The city purchased the old school house - located at the three-way intersection of Sherwood Boulevard, Third and Pine streets -- in 1999 with the hopes of moving a library there. While those plans were shelved, the city still owns the building, which suffers from extensive structural problems. During the energy crunch of the 1970s, the owners lopped off the original third story to save on heating costs, and the area where the roof and walls meet is buckling. Currently, no more than 10 people can be in the structure at once, and it is vacant.

While the building is best remembered for housing Sherwood's earliest school, in later years it was used for retail.

Three years ago, the Cultural Arts Commission was established, and the group hoped to renovate the school house into a cultural arts center, but found that renovation costs will likely make that prohibitive.

The site is in the Sherwood's Urban Renewal District, and the district has promised money for the creation of a cultural arts center in the future.