Waldo Wants To Lease The Shuttered Waldo Community School

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Waldo Community School may soon be getting new life within its walls.

After closing its doors following the completion of the 2014-2015 school year, the school’s students were shifted over to Chester Shell Elementary School in Hawthorne and Lake Forest Elementary School in Gainesville.

Today, the school stands empty.

Since its closing, the City of Waldo has revised its city plan. One part of the plan could include the use of the empty school facilities for City Hall and other businesses, according to city manager Kim Worley.

“We’ve had kind of a previous discussion with the school board superintendent,” Worley said. “They’ve never done anything like this before, so he has to do a lot of research.”

She said the city hopes to have a meeting with the school board and its superintendent, Dr. Owen Roberts, in January to come up with a plan for the Alachua County Public Schools-owned property.

Jackie Johnson, Alachua County Public Schools spokeswoman, said the superintendent and director of facilities had a meeting with some Waldo city officials about six weeks ago.

“The folks from Waldo had a big laundry list of things they through they might be able to use it for,” she said. “They talked with us about some sort of a long-term contract or lease.”

A sale of the building is not on the table right now, Johnson said. The school board wants to maintain ownership but develop a lease agreement with the city.

Johnson said the school district has its staff attorney, finance director, and others looking at the proposal.

Once assessed, she said that the two parties would meet again.

Currently, the city only has access to the school’s recreation areas for its softball, baseball, cheerleading, and flag football programs.

Everything else, according to Worley, is locked up.

“There’s a liability thing so they don’t really want people using the playgrounds and things like that,” she said. “So that has caused some hostility to certain citizens in the town because they feel like they should be able to use it.”

Worley said it would be beneficial to the whole town if the school didn’t stay empty.

Even if it became a space for city and commercial business, Worley said she thinks the school would open again if district officials decides they need the space.

Johnson said the issue of needing the property for a school in the future would be addressed in the contract.

Waldo Community School stands empty as its former students filter to other area schools. Because of the long distance to the students’ new schools, City Manager Kim Worley said she believes that the move will hurt the city’s recreation programs for kids with families moving to get closer to schools or deciding to not move to the city because of the lack of schools.

Elgin Rucker contributed reporting.

About Ali Schmitz

Ali is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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