What to do with the old Worley School? - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

What to do with the old Worley School?

Historical society wants to save building from wrecking ball

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Posted: Sunday, October 14, 2012 12:00 am

WORLEY - The newly formed Worley Historical Society and the Plummer-Worley School District have entirely different plans for the unused, boarded-up and fenced off Worley School building.

The historical society wants to convert the building - constructed in the late 1930s - into a museum and cultural center. Society members believe such a use would invite travelers along U.S. 95 to stop and visit the city of 300 people.

The school district, though, is preparing to demolish the building along the highway, something that could happen in early December.

Catherine Morris, the society's president, said the historical society formed this summer after an article appeared in the St. Maries Gazette Record reporting the school district's plan to demolish the building because of its condition.

"It was just kind of a wake-up call," Morris said. "Sometimes it takes something like that to make people do something."

She hopes to get funding from the community, and possibly grants, to fund repairs to the building.

"Absolutely everyone is so supportive in the Worley-Plummer area," Morris said. "Nobody has had a negative comment."

The 69-year-old has spent nearly her entire life in Worley.

"The Worley Historical Society would like to develop the historical side of the museum, with the (Coeur d'Alene) Tribe doing the cultural side," Morris said.

Heather Keen, Tribe spokesman, said the Tribe is neither opposing nor supporting the historical society's goal.

"We'll be looking to hear more about their plans," Keen said. "We need a lot more information."

As for the building's condition, Morris said, "It's one of those things that it seems to depend on who you talk to. Some say the roof is a problem, others won't."

She hasn't seen anything that conclusively addresses the building's condition.

She said it was built by the Works Project Administration, a New Deal agency that carried out public works projects using unskilled workers.

"It's a big part of U.S. history that shouldn't be forgotten," Morris said. "It's certainly a big part of the history of Worley."

Morris went to school there for 12 years.

"My parents moved here to farm," she said "The farm has been going since the early 1940s."

The school building has a few classrooms to both sides, a gymnasium in the center, a study hall area across the front, and a cafeteria in the basement, she said.

"We're on an Indian reservation that has a rich Native American culture," said Darlene Sheldon, a society board member. "We want to work with the tribe to preserve its history."

Local resident Don Cash said, "We should save our history."

Judi Sharrett, superintendent of the school district, said the district moved students out of the building in 2009 because of the "imminent hazard of the roof."

She said it would cost about $2.3 million to fix the roof above the gym alone, and $14 million to bring the entire school into safe condition for students.

"For our purposes, it's not a possibility to do anything with that building," Sharrett said. "It is virtually unaffordable to insure, and too costly to fix."

Most recently, the school had preschool through fifth-grade students.

"It was everything at one time," she said.

Representatives from the historical society have been to the past two school board meetings.

"It's a dangerous building," Sharrett said. "That's what we've been advised."

She wished the members of the historical society well as they seek to take ownership and put it to use again.

From her personal perspective, she said, "That would be awesome" if the historical society's wishes came true.

Jackie Van Orman, Worley's clerk-treasurer, said the City Council and Mayor Charlene Waddell heard from Morris on Wednesday night.

"The city can't take any official position," Van Orman said. "But the council and mayor gave the historical group encouragement to continue with their efforts."

Virginia Nigh, a Worley resident and a member of the historical society, said the building is structurally sound.

"It's the only building that's been in Worley for a long, long time. Worley once was a thriving community, and I don't know what caused it to shrink," she said.

This week, she said, inspections of the building were done for the historical society by a commercial contractor who builds schools and an architect from Spokane.

"They said, 'Yes, it needs a lot of work, but it's also structurally sound,'" Nigh said.

At a minimum, the historical society wants to find a way to halt the demolition.

The group has reached out to the Kootenai County Historic Commission for help.

Sally (Dyer) Holt of Worley was among the first class of first-graders to start at the school, and she stayed at the school until graduating in 1952, one of four in her senior class.

"One is deceased, and the other three of us are still in the area," said Holt, who was born in Worley at her grandparents' house.

She said she still gets together with members of her tiny graduating class to talk about their school days.

"It has those big, big windows that were cold in the winter, but you could really see out of them," Holt said.

She was also a school secretary for a number of years there.

"Most people would like to see the building saved," Holt said. "It is about the last thing there is of the old Worley."

During the Korean War, she recalled, she and some of her classmates baked cookies at their homes and in the school's home economics classroom, then sent them off to the school's alumni fighting in the war.

"We boxed them up at the school," she said.

She recalls the basketball teams being very competitive back then, playing their games on a beautiful oak floor.

"If they take a wrecking ball to it, I certainly hope they save the gym floor," she said.

She also fondly recalls the wide hallways.

"It has those old concrete walls, and I don't think they're ever going to fall down," Holt said.

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  • rez resident posted at 10:56 pm on Wed, Oct 17, 2012.

    rez resident Posts: 7

    since I am a patron of the district, I agree its an up hill battle that the historical society is trying to accomplish. The buildings are a liability to the district that is why the school board wants to demolish the building. They can also lose the liability by selling or donating the building. They basically walked away from it a few years ago when they put all students in Plummer. As for paying for anything, I am not privy to that. As for the idea of a park, well, the town has a park a block away and who would maintain and pay for a new park. Its still school property.

  • growler posted at 9:13 am on Wed, Oct 17, 2012.

    growler Posts: 7

    I applaud the efforts to preserve history, but in this case, I think it's going to be an uphill battle. Most folks who pay taxes into the Plummer-Worley School District are now paying for the new school.

    So now there is a group who thinks that folks will both pay for the new school and also donate to save the old school?

  • meidaho posted at 5:37 am on Wed, Oct 17, 2012.

    meidaho Posts: 233

    The old buildings should be removed and the entire land area turned into a park.
    The buildings are a liability if somebody gets hurt and also a place for break-ins and vandalism.

  • meidaho posted at 5:30 am on Wed, Oct 17, 2012.

    meidaho Posts: 233

    When there are several feet of snow on the roof of a building, you need to clean it to get rid of weight. When all of the news stations are showing video clips of snow being removed from business roofs and everybody is advised by law enforcement agencies to remove the snow from your roof --- and the snow is left on the Worley school roof, it makes me think this was a crime or a case of serious gross neglect to let the roof get damaged because of the weight of the snow.
    I suppose the next thing they will do is decide to stop changing the motor oil in their school busses because they want more tax dollars to buy new busses. –or- turn off the heat in the buildings at night during winter to let the water pipes freeze and burst – because they want new buildings.
    What in the he!! did they think was going to happen when they let the snow pile up on the roof and not take any action to remove the weight??? People should have been fired for letting a school building in their care get destroyed.

  • rez resident posted at 6:32 pm on Tue, Oct 16, 2012.

    rez resident Posts: 7

    Last I knew, Worley is in kootenai county. Voxpop; are you saying my taxes from the assessor goes some where else? Most folks in CdA don't realize that Worley is in Kootenai county. We may be on the reservation but my tax dollar goes to CdA.

  • AnonymousCda posted at 9:55 pm on Sun, Oct 14, 2012.

    AnonymousCda Posts: 320

    They should start there own donation website, with a youtube video why they want to save the old Worley School.

  • voxpop posted at 6:04 am on Sun, Oct 14, 2012.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    Nostalgia is only in the eye of the beholder. What Worley does is up to them. It starts making me nervous however when the term Kootenai County pops up in their comments. Let them get ANY financing other than their own from the indians.

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