COLUMBUS — Columbus Public Schools board members will be eyeing options for the former downtown middle school in the months ahead that will determine whether the more than 90-year-old building at 16th Street and 23rd Avenue is sold, remodeled or demolished and replaced.
During the campaign for the bond issue voters approved in May 2014 for the construction of a new high school along 33rd Avenue and Lost Creek Parkway, school board members told district patrons the future of the old middle school would be revisited within two years after the shift to a new high school.
The district needs to weigh the options in the months ahead with a goal of presenting them to the public this summer, Superintendent Troy Loeffelholz told board members during Monday evening’s meeting.
“We need to start the conversation,” the superintendent said.
The district will work with RVW Inc. of Columbus in the next few months to determine the estimated costs of the options for the former middle school.
At the time of the bond issue’s passage nearly three years ago, district plans were to utilize the 1965, 1988 and 1989 additions to the old middle school after students were shifted to the former high school along 26th Street.
The original three-story portion of the building facing 16th Street, built in 1924, would be held by the school district for 18 months to two years to determine if a buyer is interested in converting it for another use.
CPS officials said Monday night the original structure has generated interest from more than a half-dozen potential buyers, but no sale has materialized.
Three years ago, the school district’s proposal for the remaining sections of the building included central administrative offices, including the superintendent’s office, school board room, student services and early childhood education.
Plans also called for a preschool to be located in the downtown school with the new gymnasium maintained.
On Monday night, several board members said they like the property's central location just north of the downtown area. Meanwhile, some CPS officials are worried the district could wind up sinking substantial funds into a renovation.
“They say it’s about location, location, location, and that building has the location,” said Theresa Seipel, board president.
Board member Candy Becher noted that in previous years the district sold abandoned schools to private investors that never followed through on plans for redevelopment.
“The (district) got nothing for them and they can become an eyesore,” she said.
Board member Tim Pospisil said the board could take a look at “bulldozing” the property and building a school designed to meet the district’s needs.
“Why not build on that spot and get the building we want?” Pospisil said.
Board member Mike Goos agreed.
“I like Tim’s idea. The (existing school building) does have a great location,” Goos said. “We need to explore our options.”