The Natrona County School District has received the state’s OK to move forward with selling or disposing of a handful of buildings, including Grant and Mills elementary schools.
The School Facilities Commission approved the district’s request at its meeting last week, said spokesman Anthony Hughes. In addition to Grant and Mills, the district plans to dispose of North Casper Elementary and its special education building, the staff at which have been relocated to the main district building in west Casper.
The minutes from the meeting are not available yet, and a message left for district officials was not returned Friday.
Per district policy, each building will be appraised twice, and those assessments will be averaged.
Dennis Bay, the district’s executive director of business services, previously said that only Grant Elementary has been appraised. The average was roughly $350,000, he said. Similarly, Grant has received “quite a bunch of interest” from prospective buyers, he said.
Casper City Councilman Dallas Laird confirmed that he had approached district officials to inquire about the building. He told the Star-Tribune he was interested in buying it and donating it so the building, which is off of 15th Street near the YMCA and Casper College, could be used as a homeless shelter.
Grant and Mills elementary schools both closed last June. North Casper had previously closed but was used as a swing space for Midwest students in May and June 2016. The board voted to close and dispose of the special education building in October.
Mills Elementary has found itself in a tug of war between the school district and the town for which it was named. Mills Mayor Seth Coleman previously said that Mills residents near the school had rejected district attempts to purchase a street and have the area rezoned. The street belongs to the town, while the building belongs to the district.
After the district’s board voted in October to close Mountain View — the last school near Mills — the town filed a lawsuit against the district. Among other things, the suit alleged the district had failed to hold a public hearing about the sale or disposal of the buildings. The suit was dismissed in April.
The district did eventually hold a public hearing about the disposal of the buildings, though officials there have maintained that it had nothing to do with the lawsuit. At that meeting, Mills Mayor Seth Coleman accused former board chairman Kevin Christopherson of trying to bribe the town by asking them to buy Mills Elementary in exchange for the speedy reopening of Mountain View, should circumstances in the district change.
Christopherson acknowledged sending the email but said it was an attempt to make a deal, not a bribe.
In any case, the future of Mills Elementary appears to be in limbo. There had previously been rumors about the school’s next use, including becoming a day care or a new Boys and Girls Club.
Last year, the district sold the Fairgrounds Center and the old Roosevelt High School building. District officials have acknowledged that they likely didn’t hold a hearing on those sales, either, and it’s unclear if the School Facilities Commission approved their disposal. In the commission’s agenda and meeting minutes, there’s no mention of the buildings or the district seeking approval to dispose of them in the months before or after their January 2017 sales.