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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Fairhope's Historic K-1 School "Falling Down"

Fairhope, Alabama

July, 2016


At their June 16th meeting, facilities manager Boatright told the School Board that the 1925-vintage K-1 on Church street's condition is worsening over time and has been damaged by vandals: there is also a worry it may catch fire.

The 21,500 square foot building (21 classrooms)  that has not been used in six years has numerous major roof leaks and ventilation issues, as well as buckled flooring and chronic basement flooding.

Windows and doors have been damaged by vandals and the place is infested with fleas, he said.

Power and water have been shut off since the demolition of adjacent portable classrooms over a year ago.

The main boiler is not operational and a chiller is out of commission; lead paint and asbestos insulation may be issues too.

The four 1960s-era flat roof classrooms of 1,300 square feet each have similar problems, but not as bad as the older main building.


Members of the Fairhope Education Enrichment Foundation's strategic planning committee presented their own preliminary vision for the property: to expand (in partnership with city of Fairhope and school board) their STEAM initiative begun in 1996 with the Pelican's Nest science classroom -- still operating at the rear of the property.

1964-era wing
National studies show the a science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics curriculum is the most effective today (STEAM).

FEEF called the property a "wasting resource" and advocated converting the vacant buildings into a  "green school" -- in three phases:

Phase one is the already completed Pelican's Nest.

Phase two would be to renovate the 1960s classrooms, which would be easy to do because of their simple construction ($3 million?).

FEEF presentation
Phase three would be more costly, refurbish the old K-1 itself.

A green school is defined as one that provides environmental literacy for graduates and is "net positive" for energy and water usage. There are currently several in northern Alabama, but none on the Gulf Coast.

The buildings themselves would become a "community textbook" for the "groundbreaking" educational facility, open to all students in Baldwin County, not just for the Fairhope feeder pattern.


All board members were enthusiastic about the plan, but most questioned the financial feasibility of it considering impending financial shortfalls the school system faces.

Board president Cauley said she "loved the idea" but the board could not afford renovations: she worried about staffing and long-term maintenance issues as well.
FEEF's architect

Cauley: "Its the most valuable property we have ... we may have to sell it someday just to operate the school system."

Member Myrick called it an "excellent idea" and asked about the current value of the property; he was told it was estimated to be from $3-4 million.

Myrick: "That would only operate the system for a couple of months."

Fairhope District Representative Chiristenberry called it a "wonderful, historically significant  building in a great location:"

 "It means a lot to parents ... and some older folks in the community ... going to cause a problem if you want to tear it down ... ."

Daphne's board member Tarwater observed the aging building is "falling down" and "we need to make a decision about it."

Cauley asked FEEF to come back with more specifics about the financial aspects of their plan such as would they want to lease or buy the property and specific funding sources for long term maintenance and staffing.

(Some city of Fairhope officials toured the building back in 2013 - click)

July 2015

August 2013


Anonymous said...

Sell the property. Some enterprising firm can refurbish the building for useful purpose or tear it down. The location has a lot of value.

Anonymous said...

A tremendous opportunity.

City leaders should finally get their acts together and make them an offer they cant refuse!

Multiple good potential uses for the property in the heart of downtown... .

Anonymous said...

Looks like a perfect place for more parking!!!!!

Anonymous said...

What a screwball town Fairhope is!

Amanda said...

Dear Anonymous x 2, you must not be a true Fairhope resident but a transplant who has come in and enjoys the "small bay town" as long as you can conform it into what you want. True Fairhopians have generations of family members which walked the halls of that historic building and we have had enough of our history stripped or torn down to accommodate those with the same mentality as yourselves.

Anonymous said...

One question - Where is the money coming from to fix it up and to maintain it?

tabitha stanczak said...

I was born and raised in Fairhope and NEVER set foot in that school. I say get rid of the eyesore

Anonymous said...

I was born and raised in Fairhope. I NEVER set foot in that building. I feel they should get rid of the eye sore

Tommy Davis said...

Perfect opportunity for city to buy for more parking, needed more than triangle park idea.

Anonymous said...

"True Fairhopians have generations of family members which walked the halls of that historic building and we have had enough of our history stripped or torn down to accommodate those with the same mentality as yourselves."

So how do you explain the new construction in downtown? The splash Pad, Bay Eyes building, Living Well, the luxury condos across from Greer's, the new proposed living/retail space across from the Fairhope PD, the LIBRARY????

Taxpayers should save a sick building because your mamaw went to school there?

You can't have it both ways.

Anonymous said...

Students need a well rounded educational. STEAM isn't going to get them as far as you think. They need to understand their government, bottom line. Social studies is much needed.

Anonymous said...

Preserve the school and protect the surrounding green space. There is an existing parking lot behind the school that is rarely full.

Anonymous said...

To those that want to save the old school, open your wallets and pay for it, keep your hands out of my wallet!

Anonymous said...

Phase 1 should be repairing the roof leaks on the main building to mitigate further structural deterioration.

Anonymous said...

Another reason for "Fairhope City School System ".

Anonymous said...

Don't knock it down....too many memories there....if anything restore it into a museum like the city did the old school house by Faulkner....

Anonymous said...

Can anyone answer the question? If someone is stupid, how would or could they know it?

Leslie Anne Tarabella said...

This is exactly the tactic we predicted years ago on the Save the K-1 Committee — the school board would neglect the building to the point of total disrepair, throw their hands up, then sell it to help prop up the entire county system. Meanwhile, everyone has forgotten that our current K-3 school is one of the largest in the country — that’s COUNTRY not COUNTY, for that age-range. Chicago Public School System doesn’t have a K-3 that large. Overcrowding absolutely impacts the learning environment in a negative way. Our committee had a preliminary plan drawn up by local architects that would have refurbished and enlarged the school to make it a huge benefit to our community. The former Fairhope City Council signed a proclamation that stated their intent on keeping this school open, but never upheld what they signed.

It isn’t just a matter of history, memories or nostalgia, but one of function that requires we take action to give our children the best education, and our teachers the best working facilities possible. To allow these board members from other parts of the county to overcrowd our children while letting a great location (two, if you count the empty property on Fairhope Ave.) sit undeveloped and go to waste is a crime and our city leaders need to step up and take control of this situation. To do nothing only endorses the actions of the school board.

Anonymous said...

If the roof has been leaking that long it is already destroyed by termites and mold ......

Anonymous said...

Ha Ha!

Lyin' Jack and crook'd Tim provide leadership?

No chance in Hell.

Anonymous said...

$450,000 being spent for a few dozen parking spaces behind the library, but willing to allow a nearly 100 year-old historic building go to complete ruin. What a shame.

Anonymous said...

Take a trip to Ocean Springs, MS, and look at the Mary O'Keefe center. It was an elementary school that the city converted to an arts/education center. It's awesome! Fairhope needs this type of venue--arts, culinary arts, performing arts, a place for workshops and trainings, etc. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater...This is FAIRHOPE!!!!

Anonymous said...

I am from Fairhope and I went to school there. Lots of memories every time I see the building. It's sad that it has gone to such disrepair! This is a historic building! There are numerous other historic buildings that have the historic seal, why can't the same be done for the school? There is one small museum downtown, why not restore the building and move that museum there? I read a book about Fairhope and it's history. The word "Fairhope" came from the settlers who named the town because they had a "fair hope" of starting a new life. I think the beautification of this town is wonderful so please continue the beautification and restore this historical building. Isn't there a historical society that someone can contact about this??

Publisher said...

City leaders visited the O'keefe center in Ocean Springs three years ago ... but nothing ever came of it ... .

Textide said...

School board is begging for money, always crying for money...sell the property here and at two or three other abandoned school properties in the Fairhope area

Nancy Grassley said...

It's too bad someone in the private sector couldn't find some profitable use for this building. It would be a shame to see it turned into a parking lot.

Anonymous said...

Lead Paint,Lead Plumbing, Asbestos, Mold,and Posible Balloon framing (fire hazard). Hmm that's where a child needs to go. Im sure all this was a problem when my kids attended years ago,thats why the county did not want to touch it. This is County owned not city, they make the calls on there property not the city (not councils fault). This would cost hundreds of thousands just to clean up then the cost of purchase, this does not make sense.

Anonymous said...

I guess you'd like to tear the building down and add several of those amazing portable classrooms.

Anonymous said...

You folks don't understand - the City of Fairhope DOES NOT own the building. It is up to the Baldwin County Board of Education.

Anonymous said...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you!