According to a projected timeline, a new Syracuse Elementary School will open by the fall of 2017. When that occurs, it will leave a nearly 100,000 square-foot facility empty of students.
During a public meeting held late Monday afternoon in the lecture room of Wawasee High School, suggestions were offered on how the current Syracuse Elementary could possibly be used once the new school opens. The meeting was led by Dr. Tom Edington, superintendent of the Wawasee Community School Corp.
James Flecker, school corporation attorney, said Indiana Code states once a public school building is closed, it must be reported to the Indiana Department of Education and it triggers a two-year waiting period. But during that waiting period if the school corporation still owns the building, it can be leased or rented for different purposes depending on the circumstances. Flecker said the statutes governing this are complicated and there are some gray areas, so it is important for the school corporation to be able to document and defend its use of the building if necessary.
Bob Lahrman, director of support services for WCSC, said the average monthly electric bill for the building is $7,448.95, and $1,785.58 is the average monthly gas bill. Only parts of the building built in the 1950s remain and several changes and additions have been made through the years including several updates in 2001. “Some roofing work lies ahead,” he said.
Jon Sroufe gave a presentation of how the North Webster Community Center developed, saying the building was once slated for demolition. He said many people came on board to help save the building and now it has multiple community uses and is a nice facility. He noted though the building is not taxpayer supported and they are financially solvent, “it is a scramble all the time to come up with the money.”
Edington said there have been internal discussions about possibly moving the alternative school, the Center for Academic Progress, from the high school campus into the Syracuse Elementary building. Or the central office could be moved and then the alternative school moved into that building or possibly both could move into the Syracuse Elementary building. Another option is to use the building for a site of The Crossing, another alternative school which is utilized by a few WHS students at sites in Ligonier and Nappanee presently.
Edington said parking is a problem at the current Syracuse Elementary and that needs to be taken into account when planning for future uses of the building.
Henry DeJulia, Syracuse town manager, suggested the building could be used for a “cultural arts center,” though he did not state any specific details, and said the town already owns property on the other side of Turkey Creek. A bridge could be built across the creek to tie in the cultural arts center with the town owned property as part of a development, he added.
Mark Eastway of the Rock Solid program, offered for students in grades six through 12 after school each Thursday at the Syracuse Community Center, said they would like the program to be more of a five day program. The program has grown and needs more room, so they have expressed an interest in possibly using the building.
Lake Area Community Band also expressed an interest in the building. Approximately 50 people attended the meeting and another meeting will eventually be scheduled, though no timetable has been established yet.