CRYSTAL FALLS—It’s been over five since years since classes were last held in the old Forest Park High School building, the eastern end of the school complex.
Except for the band room and cafeteria, all school facilities are now located in the building’s west end—the elementary school built in 1997.
During a March 24 special meeting, which followed its regular meeting, FP’s School Board discussed renting some unused space in the old high school and toured the building.
They looked at places where walls can be built to separate the rental area from the rest of the school, including places where students normally enter and exit.
“If we rent out any space on this end,” said Board Member Jason Gasperich during the tour, “the access to this space will be through the end [east] doors.
“This will prevent anyone from this space getting into the school. It’s a complete separation of the school.”
Gasperich said walls can be built by students through the shop program for less than $2,000 with about $900 for materials—primarily wooden doors with a double key deadbolt lock.
“We’re not changing anything structurally,” he told the other board members. “It’s semi-permanent.”
While the district does not have any agreements with possible renters at present, Superintendent Becky Waters indicated that could change quickly. One renter, she said, may be interested in a two-year lease.
Finance Committee Chair Lisa Bloomburg called the decision to rent unused rooms “a positive, big, big step from where we’ve been.” The goal, she said, is “to have all those rooms rented and income coming in for our capital projects.”
It’s all about money. Right now, said Bloomburg, Forest Park doesn’t have any rental income that can pay for building expenses.
The state, she said, will not help. Forest Park voters have rejected a sinking fund several times.
“Having a $2,000 fund equity a couple of years ago was not something we can live with,” she said, “especially when we have emergencies.”
If the district starts receiving rental income, it can put money aside for major repairs and start a preventive maintenance program on its buildings, “So we can do things when we need to, instead of borrowing money and paying interest on it.
“We have not been able to do that for years,” she said.
When repairs were needed on the elementary school roof, Forest Park was able to repair one section, using bond money. More funds are needed to fix the rest of the roof.
At first, Gasperich said he felt “pretty strongly against” renting school space. “What we’ve all come up with as a group is something that is pretty darn exciting and pretty positive.”
The superintendent also spoke about the cost of running a school system. “I sit here worrying about the budget day in and day out,” she said.
“Sometimes we end up with $2,000 fund equity. I can’t live that way, and neither can Kathy [Stankewicz, the district’s business manager].”
“This does not seem like a ton of money,” Waters said, “but it sure is going to help when our furnace blows up or goes down.”
The board set up a committee of Gasperich, Bloomburg and Board President Jim Nocerini to meet with potential tenants about lease options—and gave it authority to complete rental agreements.
If a lease agreement is reached, work on the new interior walls will begin immediately.