If Wright City high school is replaced, old building will need new use

Derrick Forsythe, Correspondent
Posted 9/28/21

A realm of possibilities has been drawn up to explore how the current Wright City High School building might be used, if and when a replacement for it is built. Ideas for how to repurpose the …

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If Wright City high school is replaced, old building will need new use

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A realm of possibilities has been drawn up to explore how the current Wright City High School building might be used, if and when a replacement for it is built. Ideas for how to repurpose the 54-year-old facility were discussed during the R-II School Board’s monthly meeting on Sept. 16.

“We’re excited about the prospect of what that old building could offer us as a district, but also to our community,” said Superintendent Dr. Chris Berger.

This conversation has arisen amidst developing plans to construct a new high school on property that the school district owns along Highway F.

The plans would be pending approval by the community of a no-tax increase bond issue on the April 2022 ballot. This would allow for a $35 million bond project to relocate high school students to the new facility, subsequently vacating the current school.

“If we’re going to abandon that space and go to the Highway F property, we would love to be able to give back to the community through use of the facility,” said Berger.

While the current building is still usable in many ways, it has become a safety concern for several reasons. Among those are the central point of entry, fire suppression, the lack of a storm shelter, parking lot limitations and the presence of asbestos.

If those issues were to be fixed, R-II would still be facing another obstacle, in that the building no longer fits the growing population of the district.

The ideas currently being considered for repurposing the space are a school-based health clinic, senior center, or vocational school.

“If we were to partner with somebody for a health clinic, they’re going to look at the number they can serve just by our student population,” said Berger. “All we’re doing is providing that space for them to occupy it, and we wont have any cost associated with it.”

He said his previous school district successfully implemented a similar endeavor through the use of grant funding.

The Wright City community is currently without a senior center, meaning that idea could take precedence as well and serve an unmet need for the community.

“That’s kind of a glaring thing that’s missing in our community,” said Berger. “We’re a pretty good size community not to have a senior center, so we’d love to partner on that.”

The idea of a vocational or technical school in the county is one that has already been pursued by community leaders in the past. Wright City High School could potentially serve that purpose, but Berger said it may take additional effort to make that happen.

“The idea that has the least amount of traction among them is the vocational school,” said Berger, who has had three meetings with Ranken Technical School to discuss partnership. “We’ve not given up on it.”

Further discussions are planned, and Ranken intends to do a survey to gauge the community’s interest in such a program.

“The vocational option takes a little more room,” said Berger. “Right now we’ve got about 5,000 square feet of work space for that. If that idea doesn’t gain traction in the next 30 to 45 days, we’ll put vocational options on the shelf and focus on others things.”

Repurposing the high school would also allow for the potential relocation of the school district’s administration offices and technology department, potentially resulting in the expansion of R-II’s Early Childhood Center into the current central office building.

“If the admin offices were to move over to the current high school, that really doubles the capacity we have for preschool,” said Berger. “Right now we only have a half day program, four days a week. We have a long waiting list of kids that desire services even at that half time four days a week. We could hopefully expand to full days, five days a week.”

If the high school were to be repurposed, the east side of the building would likely be demolished and the western portion of the facility preserved.

“One side of the square is what we know we’re going to keep,” said Berger. “If we find a partner for vocational school we would keep a little more, but that would all be repurposed.”

Berger said the district plans to seek community feedback regarding the repurposing plans in a survey that will be conducted in late October or early November.

Wright City High School, Wright City School District

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