Glad to see APS buildings stay occupied

Across too many towns in Michigan, as the school-aged population declined and as the Great Recession and Lansing politicians sapped school districts of revenue, school buildings closed up shop.

Mostly, elementary schools closed, school district’s fewer and fewer students consolidated into fewer and fewer buildings. But some middle schools and high schools closed, too.

And, in too many towns, those buildings still sit vacant to this day.

School buildings are massive facilities, many of them built in the 1950s and 60s and rarely modernized since then. They’re laid out to house hundreds of students learning from dozens of teachers. And many of them are tucked into residential neighborhoods.

It can be difficult to imagine those buildings for any other purpose, and that can make them difficult for school districts to sell. Instead, the buildings sit vacant, generating no tax revenue and becoming eyesores in communities.

That’s why we read gleefully News reporter Julie Goldberg’s front-page story on Monday that said most of the Alpena Public Schools elementaries that have shuttered over the years are in use today.

Over the years, seven of the district’s elementary schools have closed. Sunset Elementary School closed at the end of the 2009-10 school year, but reopened last school year for homeschool students to use.

While three of the other former elementary school buildings have been demolished, three are being used for other purposes, including commercial businesses and a church. Just one, the former Bingham Elementary, is sitting vacant, but plans are in the works for that building, too.

That is a testament not only to APS leadership’s ability to make deals for those buildings, but also a testament to our community’s economic viability. There are businesses in those buildings because there are businesses that need a place to operate.

Makes us happy, all around.



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