SHERIDAN — The former Highland Park School building located at 1301 Avon St. transferred ownership for the first time since being built in 1953.
Jim Bede, through the JFL Land Company, a limited liability company, took over as the new owner following an $825,000 purchase from Sheridan County School District 2 Nov. 13, 2017. Bede also serves as president of JBD Construction in Sheridan.
What started out as Highland Park School on its dedication day Oct. 3, 1954, turned into home bases for different groups during its time under SCSD2’s ownership.
The building housed Highland Park Elementary School students The new Highland Park Elementary School construction was completed September 2006. SCSD2 agreed to run the Accountability, Change and Education program implemented by Volunteers of America Northern Rockies starting in 2007 and housed the program in the Woodland Park modular until 2015, when it transferred to the old Highland Park School.
SCSD2’s alternative schools, Wright Place Middle School and Fort Mackenzie High School, hosted classes in the building in 2014, and in 2016, Absaroka Head Start, Sheridan’s only federally-funded and free preschool program, entered into a two-year lease with SCSD2 for the building and began holding classes there as well.
The School Facilities Commission in Wyoming identifies schools with the highest Facility Condition Index scores and determines facilities in need of immediate attention. In the 2012 condition assessment, the commission assigned a higher FCI score to the old Highland Park School than the No. 1 building needing repair in the 2016 report.
The report said Highland was not included within the 2013 needs index list “because it was anticipated to be demolished after its use for elementary school swing space.”
SCSD2 facilities director Mathers Heuck said the building was not condemned but was headed in that direction.
“It had so many major repairs that were required that it wasn’t worth putting money into it,” Heuck said. “Looking at the next five years, the money you’d have to put in for a school just doesn’t make sense.”
Heuck listed the roof, boiler system, windows and exterior as items needing repair. The deed stated the purchaser agreed to accept all of such improvements and fixtures “AS IS.”
The new building owner saw the building as needing minimal repairs. While Bede shared no specific plans for the building at this point, he did say he intends to keep the building.
Following SCSD2’s decision to sell the building, the displaced programs found new homes. The Wright Place Middle School alternative program now runs out of the Early Building. SCSD2 reestablished Fort Mackenzie High School as the John C. Schiffer Collaborative School and runs its program at Sheridan College. Absaroka Head Start started working out of the historic train depot on East Fifth Street September 2017.
Heuck said no specific plans have been made for the $825,000 in SCSD2’s budget, but the district remains fortunate to keep the money. Had the building been built after 1997, the state would own the property and collect the money from the sale. Before state funding, school buildings were constructed through fundraising efforts and mill levy monies.