VAN BUREN — The St. John School in Van Buren has not been used by SAD 24 students since 1976. It sits on a 2-acre parcel of land along with a smaller school building, Kindle School, which has not been used for education since 1992.
The town of Van Buren wants the two buildings and the land they sit on for future economic growth. The St. John School and the 2 acres of land were given to SAD 24 when the district was formed in the 1960s.
Superintendent Clayton Belanger said Tuesday that SAD voters will decide on Feb. 11 if the town will get the buildings and land. School directors feel voters have to give their approval for the school district to donate the buildings and land to the town.
The school district includes Van Buren, Hamlin and Cyr Plantation.
The town actually has first refusal on the St. John School and the land because the school was given to the school district by the town. The St. John School was closed to student use in 1976 and used to warehouse paper and food supplies until a couple of years ago.
It costs the town about $2,000 a year to keep the buildings heated and insured.
Complicating the transaction is the Kindle School, a small, one-story building erected by the school district at a time when student population was high. It is currently used by the Van Buren Lions Club under lease from the school district.
Today, SAD 24 operates two schools, the Van Buren District Secondary School and the Gateway Elementary School. The secondary school actually has enough floor space to house all district students, kindergarten through grade 12, but renovation costs would be high.
Van Buren Town Manager Larry Cote said Tuesday the town wants to use the three-story St. John School building to entice industry or commercial enterprises to town.
The town wants to look for grants to renovate the larger building. The land is needed, Cote said, for parking.
Glenn Vaillancourt, chairman of the Van Buren Town Council, said last week that the town has been in contact with a telemarketing company the town hopes to entice to Van Buren.
“They [businesses looking to locate in Van Buren] need a building, and they need parking space. We don’t have much use for the Kindle School, but we need the land it sits on,” said Vaillancourt.
School directors were agreeable to giving the town the St. John School and some land. A couple of school directors balked at giving away the Kindle School.
The Town Council feels the small building, built right next to the larger St. John School, would be a detriment to job-creation plans for the buildings and land.
Cote said the town could “possibly get grants” to renovate the building and land. To get grants, he said, the town has to own the land and building.
Vaillancourt said, “We feel we need the entire package to be able to market it. We can’t market a building without adequate parking area.”