Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

District Hopes Old School Can Be Put to Use in Neighborhood

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

District Hopes Old School Can Be Put to Use in Neighborhood

Article excerpt

While Rochester Elementary remains vacant and up for sale more than a year after the building closed in May 2016, Seaman Unified School District 345 officials want to remain "good neighbors" to the homeowners next to the property in the 3400 block of N.W. Rochester Road.

"We want that building to have some activity in it once in a while," superintendent Steve Noble said. "Because it keeps that building somewhat alive. It keeps what I call the 'nuisances' away, whether they're the four-legged kind or the two-legged kind that can get into there and do things."

Noble said the plumbing isn't functional and there's only minimal heat and air conditioning. He said for the time being, the Kansas Highway Patrol is temporarily using the building as a training facility at no charge.

"In this case, they're providing a community service to keep us all safe," Noble said. "We feel like that's an in-kind, 'thank you' kind of thing that we do with them."

The former Sumner Elementary -- and years of disrepair and uncertainty about its fate in the hands of an out-of-state owner -- has been a cautionary tale for districts, including recent Topeka USD 501 administrations.

In USD 345, when East Indianola Elementary was closed in 2009, the district sold the building to Heritage Christian School for $500,000. The former Lyman Elementary was converted into USD 345's alternative high school and now it's being renovated to be become the district's early childhood education center beginning in August.

The alternative high school programs and USD 345 information technology department have been moved to the former Pleasant Hill Elementary that closed in May 2016.

Bob Horton, USD 345's director of business services, said the district hasn't received any recent offers for Rochester, which was shuttered at the same time Pleasant Hill closed as an elementary school so students in both buildings could attend the renovated Northern Hills Elementary School in August 2016. He said the asking price for Rochester remains at $600,000 and is listed by Topeka-based Kansas Commercial Real Estate.

Noble said he believes board of education members would "entertain about any offer at this point in time" but they would also want the owner to have the building "free and clear. …

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