The Chase County Old School Development District is another step closer to saving the historic grade school in Cottonwood Falls.
The group has officially purchased the school and the seven acres of property it sits on, a culmination of work to preserve the history and create opportunities through their mission to save the built history of the old school and to maintain neighborhood integrity by creating community engagement and opportunities.
“We had multiple community meetings and asked people what they would like to see, what are their goals for the property,” said Lee Anne Coester, President of CCOSDD. “We did not want the property to go to ruin.”
Like many other members of the CCOSDD, Coester is an alumni of the old school, along with her mother and grandmother.
The old limestone school was built in 1904 with an attached gymnasium and classrooms built in the 1960s. CCOSDD has been working hard to turn the historic site into the Chase County Community Center.
“The fact that is, it still in excellent condition,” Coester said. “Which makes it still usable and easy to convert.”
The plan is to develop the center to provide opportunities for everyone in the community and possibilities are endless. The community center could be used as a performance stage, a gym for indoor sport tournaments, gymnastic classes, multi-use kitchen, community garden, soccer field, venue for weddings, family reunions, business spaces, concerts, large community gatherings and art shows.
CCOSDD finalized the purchase of the school in September and now they can move forward with the renovation process. Recently, Coach Ron Slaymaker and the Lady Bulldogs basketball team helped clean up the school.
Now, Coester will move forward onto the next step of the building — to gather funds for plumbing, heating and air conditioning — before opening the building up for public use. They have received three quotes from local contractors who are ready to help.
“What we are actually working very hard on right now is funding to get it ready to open … We know that heating and air alone will be $275,000,” she said. “So, now we are working on getting grants and donations that will allow us to get the heating and air done, plumbing caught up, things like that so we can open it for public use.”
Coester said an open house celebrating the purchase of the building will be held from 1 - 3 p.m. Sunday at the old school building, located at 3rd and Maple streets in Cottonwood Falls.
“We are going to have some memorabilia out from the school that people have not seen in a long time,” Coester said. “Like old trophies on display.”
One room at the school will be set up to imitate an old classroom from the 1950s. Furniture and snacks will be on sale and all proceeds will go to the school.
“We are also going to have a spot set up for people to, again, share ideas for what they would like the future of the property to be,” she said.
Coester added that once the funding for the plumbing and heating and air is complete, the building will be open for public use.
She explained that donations are needed and appreciated, donors can help contribute in multiple ways for the school building. They provide tax receipts for all donations and require a mailing or email address to send the receipt. Each donations will receive a note of an original painting of the school by artist and board member Alison Johnson.
Donors can visit their website at https://www.oldschooldevelopment.com/donate, send a PayPal donation to email@example.com, send payable checks to CCOSDD at the Citizens State Bank in Cottonwood Falls or to the Emporia Community Foundation.
Follow the Chase County Old School Development District on Facebook to stay up to date with the group’s progress.