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Superintendent News & Views

The Future of the Gladbrook School Building

March 11, 2018
David Hill - Gladbrook-Reinbeck Superintendent , Reinbeck Courier

Perhaps you have heard of the former Geneseo Consolidated School District, located east of Buckingham in the northeastern part of Tama County. I was born and raised on my family farm not far from the Geneseo school. My grandmother was a teacher there for most of her career, and my grandfather proudly served on the Geneseo school board for many years. For my family and countless others, it was a sad day when the Dysart-Geneseo school district decided to close the building in the early 1980's.

What's even more sad than the closing of the Geneseo building is the CURRENT condition of the building. For decades, the building has sat emptyrotting and decaying. Many portions of the roof have caved in, and small trees are actually growing inside of the "new gym." Critters of all kinds can easily enter and exit the building. Graffiti and other forms of vandalism have also taken their toll over the years, and who knows what other types of criminal activities have taken place there. For those who remember the "glory days" of the Geneseo schools, it is truly a letdown to see what this building has become.

One difference between the Geneseo school and many of the other closed school buildings all over the state is that the Geneseo school is located in a rural area and is not in the center of a town. Imagine what a hazard and an eyesore it would be to have a decaying school building like this in the middle of your town!

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The Gladbrook-Reinbeck Community School District now has a closed building of its own to deal with. We can't "bury our heads in the sand" like some other school districts have done and just ignore the issueI believe it is our responsibility to do something about it. The residents of Gladbrook deserve a school district that will face this issue, no matter how heartbreaking or controversial it may be. It is in the best interest of the residents of Gladbrook AND in the best interest of G-R schools to avoid having a rotting, decaying school in the middle of Gladbrook.

One option would be to sell the building to someone who will maintain it. The building has been offered to the City of Gladbrook and understandably, the city isn't interested in becoming the owner. Selling to a private owner comes with great risk, as a private owner may have great hopes and plans for a building like this, but history has shown that they often do not follow through. This is what happened with the Geneseo building and countless other closed school buildings around the state the building is sold to a private owner who maintains it for a while but eventually, they discontinue maintenance and the building falls into disarray.

Realizing this, district officials are investigating the possibility of demolishing all or part of the building. We have had meetings with Gladbrook's mayor and representatives from the city council about this, and the general consensus is that it would be better to demolish the unused parts of the building than to have it sit there empty for years and become a hazard and an eyesore like so many other closed school buildings throughout the state. While it would be great to see the building repurposed for a positive use, no one has come forward with a viable plan to make this happen.

Gladbrook city officials have stated that they will notify us later this month which portions of the building, if any, they would like to assume ownership of after a partial demolition. The City of Gladbrook currently operates the swimming pool as a public pool and operates a fitness center located inside the facility, and the district would like the city to be able to continue these uses if they so desire. If the city decides that they would like to become the owner of these portions of the building, the district is likely to proceed with tentative plans to demolish the remaining portions.

City leaders in Gladbrook are now wrestling with the question of whether they would like to keep the pool, keep the fitness center, possibly keep the gym and make it a part of the fitness center, or whether they would prefer to have the district tear down the entire building.

The demolition or partial demolition of a school building is a long process. Steps in the process include asbestos abatement (which could take place as early as this coming fall), having an architect or engineer draw up specifications for demolition or partial demolition, determining how to pay for the cost of demolition, and accepting public bids for demolition and any related construction to "shore up" the remaining parts of the building. If a viable proposal for repurposing the building comes forward while we are working through the process, we will certainly consider any and all proposals received. Realizing that this is probably a "long-shot" at best, the responsible thing to do is to at least proceed with tentative plans for a demolition.

While this isn't a fun topic to write about and for many of you, I'm sure it's not a fun topic to read about, I do believe that facing this issue "head-on" is the responsible thing to do and the right thing to dofor the town of Gladbrook and for the entire G-R district.

You are welcome to visit my blog at where this column and all of the columns I have written for the Northern Sun Print and Reinbeck Courier are posted. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter, where my handle is @DavidRobertHill.



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