Followers of the Ford County Record’s Facebook page were asked this week: “Do you think the Paxton-Buckley-Loda school board should reconsider its planned demolition of historic PBL Eastlawn School, the former Paxton Community High School building? If so, why? If not, why not?” Select responses follow:
Josh Lewis — Economically the school should not be saved. Turn it into a park with a walking path and restore native Illinois plants that can flourish and attract bees, bugs, butterflies and birds. Keep the stairs and entry facade as a landmark with students in FFA and Home Ec (if it’s still called that) with local business sponsorship responsible for the upkeep of the grounds. It’s a great opportunity for civic pride and one I would love to donate to as long as my old report cards don’t survive.
Tyger McClure — I firmly believe that the Paxton Buckley Loda School District should reconsider the timing of the demolition by altering or cancelling the current contract. This will relieve the school district of the stress and logistics problems that were mentioned at the meeting I attended concerning removing artifacts from the building. There is a timing issue because the addition and work done at Clara Peterson Elementary will not be finished. I also believe that demolition should be reconsidered in general. I would like to see the school district or a third party of their choice come up with marketing materials similar to what you or I would want if we were selling our homes. Let’s show everyone that Paxton and the PBL school district value the resources that current and former taxpayers worked hard with pride to build and maintain.
Clarissa Vaughn Gentzler — There are no easy answers and every option will cost money. However it would be great if at least the auditorium part of the building could be saved and turned into a community building. The auditorium could then possibly be rented out and give the community another place to hold events. Any income brought in could then go towards the expenses of the building. If the auditorium can at least be saved from demolition it could a compromise for both sides - part of the building and history is saved and the cost is less than trying to save the whole building.
Danielle Roy — I would think it would be good for community building... college classes, adult education programs, places for scouts to go, maybe start a special recreations program, etc. There are so many possibilities for that building... and the community is focused on the public pool... what about raising money to restore an historical institution that the community could truly use... just saying.
Nancy Gibb — It certainly is a unique building, but, I don’t see any reason to keep it. There are too many old buildings just deteriorating now. I don’t think anybody around here has the money to fix it up. And I don’t think anyone would rent rooms for office space. We just don’t have the businesses for that. I think the school made the right decision here. That ground could be sold for a nice park or homes.
Sandy VanWiggeren — Yes, it should be preserved. It could be turned into a senior community with apartments for independent and assisted living and/or the auditorium be used for community events and plays, especially since the theater is gone. There are so many opportunities, not to mention it’s historical value. Paxton has lost so much of its history already and now the city’s hospital with all of its history is about to be demolished. Reuse the building while saving Paxton’s history at the same time!
Clarke Albers — I understand people would like to see something big and cool happen in this town (which is great) but what I’m seeing proposed isnt very logical. The PBL school district isn’t in the business of making apartment complexes or having bed and breakfasts or supplying a public gym. I am not well versed on the finances of our park district but I highly doubt that they have the money just to keep the upkeep not to mention enough to purchase this building. Almost all the ideas being mentioned would need to be preformed by a private individual/company and nobody is knocking down the door to buy that building. And if someone buys that building the school district would also loose out on that property and would possibly have to acquire more property in the future. It needs torn down.
Rex Roy — Anyone that has walked thru it like many of us did that attended the 1st meeting to discuss saving it or tearing it down and building the addition at Clara Peterson know it needs to be torn down. It was like walking into a 50 year time capsule. Had not changed much. Old boiler, asbestos from ceiling tile to pipe insulation to floor tiles, bad roof, etc. If someone or an organization buys it we lose all control over what happens to it but West Lawn is a prime example of what can happen. I say tear it down and replace it with much needed senior citizen living of some fashion. Great location near Downtown.
ShaLyn Sue Darr-Pettman — This building needs the wrecking ball. I think if people saw the bottom line for this old school they would understand better what it takes just to maintain the building as it is. The amount of money it would require to make this building into apartments I’m sure would be mind blowing. First, you’d have to hire an architect to design the restructuring. You would have to wire, plumb, and lower ceilings, and put in walls. It would probably need to have insulation throughout and definitely flooring and air conditioning. To be an elderly facility, you’d need an elevator. This leaves the gym and locker room area without purpose. When it is home to several people, you can’t allow activities in the gym and the cafeteria would be another apartment. It would turn into another Loda Grade School disaster only three times the size in the end. The correct decision was made to demolish it. It has asbestos everywhere I’m sure and there is no telling what condition the roof is in. Once there is a bill of sale, the owner can do whatever. My son lives a block away from the collapsed old school in Rankin, this is an awful thing to see and I’m sure it was on the State’s keep list but now look at it. This will take a bottomless bank account and no one wants to throw money at a losing cause.
JoAnn Rust Pine — I hate to see if torn down but I also don’t want to see it look like the old schools in Rankin. The park district used to make good use of the gymnasium and it would be great to see Either apartments or maybe as a classroom for parkland or something like that but I don’t know how much money anyone has to put into this.
Robert Carleton — Just let it go!! If it gets saved then it will sit there empty and fall apart just like Rankin and Loda. Sure it was a cool building and I have memories from there too like everyone else but sometimes you just gotta let go.
Jennie Weller-Grossich — I think it’s a whole lot of building going to waste. Sometimes investing in the historic value of things can promote growth in the future.
Nick Heisler — I say turn it into apartments with a public indoor basketball court that you could charge a small fee for and also have a food court or concession stand type of place to get beverages and snacks in the cafeteria. This way you could create some easy jobs and revenue for the town. While also providing more living arrangements for those attending college and bring more revenue to the local stores because of said new residents.
Mary McNealy — Why not keep it then they could rent it out for parties or the park district could use it for their games and practices?
Cherry Ehrbright — I think they should at least keep gym/theatre like Roberts did. Apartments would be awesome but costly.
Ashlee Beal — It will make a much better parking lot than an abandoned building.
Sherrill Pilkington Horridge — Yes, I think it should be at least postponed. Everybody out there has their own opinion as to what should be done with it. Other than tearing it down--Does the school board know what they would be doing with the empty lot? Lot of other communities have come up with other solutions for their old schools, maybe this needs to be investigated before it is torn down.
Joel Martin — Level it.