Inside: Preservation

SCHOOL BUYS BUILDING IT WAS RENTING

A private school in Rochester Hills, Mich., has bought the 1920s-era building that has housed its classes since 1998.

The Oakland Steiner School agreed to pay the Avondale School District $1.8 million for the former Stiles school building.

The Avondale district had reached a $2.1 million deal for the land with a private development firm, which planned to build a mixture of residential, office, commercial and neighborhood retail spaces.

However, the deal fell through after the Rochester Hills Historic Districts Commission indicated that it was considering including the school site in a historic-preservation district. That would have made it difficult for the development firm to pursue its plans.

The Avondale district sought new bids, and the Oakland Steiner School, an independent Waldorf school that has leased the facility for eight years, submitted the only bid.

RENOVATE OR REBUILD?

An organization hoping to preserve an 89-year-old school building in Turtle Creek, Pa., is seeking to have the facility placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The building, the former Turtle Creek High School, now serves as East Junior High School in the Woodland Hills (Pa.) district. The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation says it plans to submit a nomination to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, which decides whether to nominate buildings for the National Register.

The foundation decided to act after preservationists feared that the school building might be razed. Last year, the Woodlands School District said it wanted to tear down the school and build a new school in its place. A group called the Committee to Save Turtle Creek High School urged the district to reconsider, and an ad hoc committee of community residents, district employees and experts is now wrestling with the question of whether to renovate the building or construct a new facility.

OLD HIGH SCHOOL PRESERVED AS APARTMENTS

The former Fairbury High School in Fairbury, Neb., has been converted to a 26-unit apartment complex.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman came to Fairbury in March to help dedicate the Fairbury '23 Apartments. The name is a reference to the year the building opened — 1923. It housed the city's high school for 66 years, until 1989.

After the facility sat empty for several years, a preservation foundation was formed and bought the empty facility from the school district. It solicited donations and took advantage of federal funds and tax credits to transform the building into apartments.

OLD SCHOOL BUILDINGS

Percentage of U.S. public school buildings constructed before 1950:
Elementary 29
Secondary 24
Enrollment less than 300 40
Enrollment 300 to 999 24
Enrollment 1,000 or more 23
City 34
Urban fringe 20
Town 24
Rural 32
Total percentage 28
National Center for Education Statistics, “How Old Are America's Public Schools,” 1999
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