Jan. 24—The Joplin Board of Education on Tuesday declared Columbia Elementary School as surplus property, the first step toward razing the nearly 100-year-old structure.
Also included in the surplus declaration is the safe room, which was built on the property after the May 2011 tornado, and two modular units that had been in use as classrooms there.
The school district is required by its memorandum of understanding with the city of Joplin to raze Columbia within 12 months of occupancy of the new Dover Hill Elementary School, which opened earlier this month as a replacement for Columbia and another nearly century-old school, West Central. The memorandum of understanding provided for the transfer of the Dover Hill property from the city to the district for construction of the new school.
"Starting Jan. 4, that clock started ticking," said Matt Harding, assistant superintendent of operations, in reference to the date Dover Hill opened for classes.
Declaring the building as surplus property formally launches the process of demolishing the school, said Dave Pettit, facilities director. Other tasks that must be completed before the school comes down would include asbestos testing and soliciting bids for demolition, he said.
"To be able to get those steps started now will hopefully get us the best prices as we begin to look at the things that we will have to bid," he said. "Also (it will) help get that taken care of so the building is not sitting there not being (used)."
Harding said the district plans to take as many items and materials out of Columbia as possible for reuse elsewhere.
"The goal is to get these taken care of as quickly as possible, especially on the inside — get the items that we want out that we're going to reuse, get the structures that we want to take and keep out of there," he said. "That way, it's ready to go for everything we need to do for the demolition companies."
The safe room will be separated as surplus property from the school building. Harding said it's possible that some companies could be interested in purchasing the safe room and removing it from the property.
The two modular units will be the first to be removed from the site. They were the last trailers in use as classrooms in the district.
"I am excited for the fact that we will not be having modular classrooms anymore for our students, that we've upgraded our facilities and our kids are going to be inside," Superintendent Kerry Sachetta said.
Sachetta said the district in the past has sold the modular units it no longer needed. He wasn't sure that buyers would be interested in Columbia's two trailers because "they've been around quite a while."
The district eventually will need to do something with the now-vacant West Central school as well. Per its memorandum of understanding with the city, it must demolish West Central at its own cost within 36 months of occupancy of Dover Hill unless it has another use for the old building or can sell or transfer the property to another user.
Dover Hill was built with a $25 million bond issue approved by voters in June 2020. Officials said the new school was needed to replace the two older buildings, which were overcrowded and inadequate for modern learning.
The Columbia school in particular had additional problems with the ground stability at the location, which has caused walls to crack and the structure to shift in recent years.