Jasper School Saved
Seven people spearheaded the successful fundraising efforts to purchase the former Jasper High School, and last week they signed papers for their group called Reclaim Community to become a limited liability organization.
Elicia Kortus, Ryan Reker, Terry Skyberg, Jason Madtson, Randy Larson, Kristie Weinkauf and Jon Hoyme are the not-for profit’s first governing board.
Reclaim Community is now able to apply for grants and preserve the historical structure and is able to pursue other financial avenues as its own entity.
It was Kortus who united the community in purchasing the former school built in 1911. She began organizing Reclaim Community five months ago in order to initiate the fundraising.
“We needed someone like Elicia to step up and put a little more gas in our tanks,” said Skyberg, who graduated from the Jasper school.
The high school closed in 1993 when the district merged with Pipestone. The building initially served as the Pipestone-Jasper Elementary School until 2001, when the building was closed as a school.
Weinkauf, who graduated from Luverne High School in 1985, was the elementary school secretary at the time of the building’s closure. Her daughters were also students there.
“I remember packing boxes in the summer of 2001,” she said.
Two years after the school closed, Dick and Arlene Haase purchased the building, saving it from demolition. Their efforts to repurpose the building as an apartment complex never materialized. The couple was also unable to resell the building.
Since the Haases’ initial renovation efforts, the building has slowly deteriorated due to the lack of use and little to no upkeep over the past 15 years.
In the past two years, both Dick and Arlene Haase have died. In November family members placed the building up for auction on an online site in order to settle their estate.
Through Kortus’ enthusiasm for the project and continued leadership, Reclaim Community raised more than $25,000 by February and was the building’s highest bidder.
Last week the group finally toured the building they plan to turn into a multi-purpose community facility.
Randy Larson, JHS Class of 1974, was last in the school decades ago.
“I hated going to school,” he recalled. “I was always the last one in (school before the bell rang).”
Feelings have since evolved into saving the school for its Sioux quartzite design rather than what occurred inside.
The group viewed the gymnasium with its auditorium seating, the school kitchen and empty classrooms. Larson even located his locker on the second floor.
Madtson, too, remembered attending elementary school there, having lunch in the hallway.
“I wanted the building to be saved and used, not to be torn down,” he said to the agreement of the other Reclaim supporters.
The group was able to view areas of water damage and subsequent growth of mold from the damp conditions.
The conditions didn’t dampen plans to bring the building back to life.
Reker works for a regional planning agency.
“I am here to help out,” he said. “Make the building decent again and physically bring it back to the community.”
Reker attended Jasper Elementary School and transferred to Luverne, where he graduated in 1992.
Hoyme was unable to attend the limited liability designation signing.
As Reclaim Community waits for the estate probate to be completed, they are organizing resources for the next steps.
In the coming months, they are planning to clean the building, weatherize the structure and gain monies for a re-use study.
Kortus said what the building will eventually become is still open for the public to decide.
The successful campaign to purchase the building has the group continuing with the “see a need” approach.
Kortus explained the approach using the roof as an example.
Volunteers could use donated materials to complete initial repairs. A specific fundraiser could finance other roof repairs if necessary. The “see a need” could be applied to other tasks, allowing the group more dollars to complete more renovations.
The group anticipates it will take several years to renovate the school into a multi-use facility.