Historic school will be demolished

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The Plummer-Worley School District board voted unanimously on Monday evening to go ahead with the demolition of the historic Worley School, in spite of a historical society's efforts to save it.

"I understand the historical value that the society is putting on this building," said district board member Ida "JR" Gustin, adding that several of her family members attended school there. "But in my view, it's just a hazard to the community."

The board also voted on Monday to award a bid for the school's demolition.

Members of the Worley Historical Society, which had formed for the sole purpose of rescuing the building from destruction, conceded on Tuesday that there is little more they can do.

"I think that it's very, very sad," said group President Catherine Morris. "It's a historical artifact. If the building is taken down, it's just losing part of our nation's history."

The school, built in the 1930s as a Works Progress Administration project, was closed in 2009 due to risk of imminent roof collapse.

The school district had earlier announced plans to demolish the building this winter, due to liability.

The Worley Historical Society made a presentation at Monday's meeting proposing for the closed school property to be transferred from the district to Kootenai County, and finally to the society. The small group planned to eventually transform the structure into a museum and cultural center.

But there were too many obstacles, the district board found.

The historical society had not completed all the statutory requirements needed for a property transfer, like acquiring insurance to indemnify the district from liability.

"It all stemmed back to liability," Gustin said. "We've had in the past children break into the building. There has been a child found who had run away from home and that's where she had been staying. A kid could go in there and the building could fall."

There was also the fact that the property is worth roughly $400,000, according to an assessment funded by the historical society.

Neither the historical society nor Kootenai County were offering to pay the district for the property, Gustin pointed out.

"It wasn't feasible for our district to just give property away," she said.

Judi Sharrett, district superintendent, also noted that the district might use the property for another purpose down the road.

"It keeps a valuable asset," Sharrett said, adding that the district still uses the bus barn on the property.

The demolition of the building will cost $220,000, district staff confirmed on Monday.

It wasn't certain when the demolition would occur.

Two of the seven district board members were absent from Monday's meeting.

Morris said the historical society is naturally disappointed.

"I'm just appalled for the lack of respect for a historical building," said Morris, who had attended the school herself.

But the Worley Historical Society, which will soon receive 501c3 status, does plan to continue, she added.

"I think all small towns should have something set up so that its history won't be lost," she said.

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