Grant Elementary’s nearly century-long tenure as a school building in Casper ended this week in a unanimous vote to sell the shuttered building.
David Dewald purchased the building for $361,501, about $17,000 over its appraised value. It’s unclear what Dewald plans to do with it — he was not in attendance at Wednesday’s school board meeting Wednesday and has not returned messages seeking comment.
Grant closed in June 2017 as part of the Natrona County School District’s efforts to deal with its share of massive state budget cuts. As it made its way toward the auction block, a number of potential futures loomed. Casper City Councilman Dallas Laird floated the idea of buying and donating the building, so that it could be used a homeless shelter.
After residents of the central Casper neighborhood sent him a flurry of emails, he dropped the idea and instead pondered handing it over to Head Start, a program currently headquartered downtown that offers support to low-income children.
With Grant disposed of, the district will now turn to selling Mills Elementary, which has had its own winding road to sale.
The Town of Mills sued the district over the closure of Mills and Mountain View elementaries, the latter of which was shuttered last month. A Natrona County judge threw out the lawsuit in April. And residents refused to sell the district a pair of roads that cut through the Mills Elementary grounds, meaning the property is split into three parts.
Dennis Bay, the district’s executive director of business services, said the property had been appraised at $257,500 and was an all-or-nothing package. The town originally bid to buy it, but the offer was “very much below” the asking price, Bay said.
In other business Wednesday night, the board approved a bid to install new cameras at a number of Natrona County schools, including Natrona County High and Kelly Walsh. Bay told the board that the cameras would be used inside the schools, several of which already have exterior cameras.
As Bay presented his monthly construction report, the board realized something.
“Dennis, is this your last meeting?” trustee Ray Catellier asked.
“Fortunately, yes,” replied Bay, who will be retiring after more than 15 years in the district.
The board then peppered him with questions, to rib him about retiring and to mine his expertise for a little while longer. Bay’s duties have included overseeing the district’s recent massive construction and renovation that touched most schools in the county, from the major high school projects to new elementary buildings. The total spending — approved before the economic downturn — runs in the hundreds of millions.
Once Bay’s presentation was finished, the board and assembled staff rose and applauded him. Superintendent Steve Hopkins, who rarely comments publicly at the end of board meetings, recognized Bay’s service. Hopkins said that while Bay wasn’t in the classroom, his duties overseeing construction were an extension of educating kids.
“I have many traits of Dennis that I admire,” Hopkins said, “but I put that one at the top of the list.”