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Pueblo school board discusses possibilities for vacant schools

School board discusses possibilities for vacant schools

PUEBLO, Colo. - Maintaining empty school buildings is costing taxpayers nearly $210,000. 

There are four vacant schools in Pueblo: Spann Elementary, Hellbeck Elementary and Somerlid Elementary closed in 2012. Keating Education Center closed in 2008.

Pueblo City Schools spokesman Scott Jones said the schools closed for "multiple reasons tied to budget-saving measures." Yet, on average, it cost about $52,000 to maintain each building on a yearly basis. 

"We have to keep them up-to-date. We have to keep the utilities on," said Pueblo School Board President Dr. Kathy DeNiro.

The school board and Pueblo City Council met during council's Monday night work session to discuss what to do with the vacant schools. 

Last year, Ivywild School in Colorado Springs was turned into a neighborhood center that features a number of businesses, including a bakery, a brewery and a bike shop. The architect behind the former school's revitalization gave a presentation to board members and city council about the possibility of bringing a similar project to Pueblo. 

"It's scalable to any neighborhood and it really builds on the local identity and culture of the neighborhood," said architect Jim Fennell. 

The board hasn't decided which schools it wants to repurpose, or even if the district would continue to own them. But board members said the prospect is exciting.

"It would be totally different from what Pueblo has seen come in," DeNiro said.

Although Hellbeck Elementary is vacant, DeNiro said the former school will be used as an alternative education school.

The board will meet for a work session on Thursday at 3 p.m. to talk more about reusing vacant schools.  

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