There is a group of determined investors who want to buy Prairie View Elementary School from the Ellsworth Community School District and repurpose it into a senior living facility.
To them, it's killing two birds with one stone, as the old saying goes. It would provide housing for the area's senior population. Options for senior housing are lacking in the region, especially with the closure of many nursing homes such as The Lutheran Home in River Falls. It would also save a building that many in the community hold dear.
Some members of the Ellsworth School Board have balked at the idea. Referendum dollars were set aside specifically for the demolition of Prairie View and Hillcrest elementary schools, once the new Ellsworth Elementary School is functioning.
We get that the board and district went through a thoughtful process, that it wasn't a rash decision to raze Prairie View. Careful research, time and investment went into the decision. Heck, it's been voted on three times now. However, there is a new option on the table and it seems to be a viable one.
Don't let fear rule your decision making. Some people worry that Prairie View will become an eyesore if sold, just as some people feel the former Junior High and Sunnyside are eyesores (not everyone agrees with that assessment, by the way). But what about Lindgren Early Learning Center? The district decided to sell that building as is, deeming that it might make a good business investment for someone. However, that school is much more visible than Prairie View, situated on a state highway that is a gateway to our community from Minnesota. Why is no one worried that that might become an eyesore? Prairie View is stationed well of the main road, and looking at close to 1,000 petition signatures, the people in that neighborhood who would have to look at a potential eyesore want the building saved.
The group of investors coming in with the senior living idea are not a fly by night group. They live in the Bay City/Hager City area. They love their community. They want to help their community. They want to save a beloved school by giving it new life. Can't provisions be set in place if the building is sold to them, to make sure it never becomes the worry people are so scared of? Picture a senior living community giving life to a building that has echoed for decades with children's laughter. Think of children going there to visit their elders, who can say "I once went to school here." Not to mention the possibility of keeping a Panther Kids Club in the southern portion of the district. Some families will be burdened having to drive into Ellsworth for PKC.
Tearing down the old and building new. That's what we do in America. It's too bad we don't have the respect for history and old buildings that they do in Europe. Yes, it costs a lot to keep up historic buildings. But when you have a group willing to do so, take that opportunity.
We are absolutely certain the right decision was made in building a new elementary school. It was needed, especially with how educating students has changed with technology and new learning methods. But please, consider allowing an old, treasured school a new lease on life. Because once it's torn down, it can't be put back up.