School to transform into a home for older folks
LECK KILL - The man who snatched up a vacant elementary school is preparing the building for a major transformation.
Jamie Reed, of Zerbe Township, purchased the former Leck Kill Elementary School from the Line Mountain School District in May for $50,222, is converting it into a senior living facility.
When completed, the former school will offer 13 apartments specially designed for seniors aged 55 and older. Two of the apartments will be accessible in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Reed.
Reed was inspired to purchase the building after noting a need for a retirement home in the Leck Kill area. He saw other schools crumbling from years of disuse after they were closed and wanted to do something to prevent this from happening in Leck Kill.
"People in this community like to stay in the area," Reed said at the school Thursday. "I'm glad it's going to have a good use and not be wasted."
Reed's plan follows a trend occurring nationwide. As funding cuts and economic turmoil impose hardships on school districts, many turned to consolidation to save money. In Pittsburgh, where more than a dozen schools were closed during an era of financial instability within Pittsburgh Public Schools, real estate developers snapped up buildings and converted them into loft apartments.
Other towns have transformed vacated schools into community centers, YMCAs and shopping centers.
Many of these adaptive reuses have sought to incorporate as many of the historic elements of the buildings as possible.
Reed said he'd like to keep some of the details from the school, like the storage cabinets that hang above empty, child-size coat hooks.
"We're also going to try to keep the hardwood floor, if possible," said Reed, motioning to the dark-stained, scuffed floor in the former gymnasium/cafeteria space.
Others elements he has to change to meet code requirements or for practicality.
The vaulted, open-truss ceilings in some of the classrooms will be hidden by a drop ceiling, Reed said, to make the rooms easier to keep clean and more efficient to heat.
Low, child-size chalk boards will also be taken down, although some of the hallway bulletin boards will be saved and used in the operation of the senior living facility.
Several walls will be shifted to subdivide the building into more equitable rooms, and new walls will be constructed inside each room to create en-suite bathrooms.
Air conditioning units, installed during a $1.1 million renovation of the building in 2010, will be torn out and replaced with units that meet residential code requirements and are zoned for individual apartments.
The carpeting, also installed in 2010, will be removed due to numerous stains and tears.
One of the biggest changes to the building, the removal of an attached trailer, has already been completed.
"We're going to use it on another property," said Reed.
Reed, who resides just outside of Trevorton, attended the school from third to fifth grades. In addition to owning and managing several other rental properties, he operates a chiropractor business.
His daughter, Masie, who soon turns 9, attends Line Mountain Elementary, the Trevorton school into which Leck Kill was consolidated.
Masie has a classroom set up in the Leck Kill building with her books, artwork and a piano abandoned by the district. She plays in this room while her father works elsewhere in the building - except for when she's exploring for treasure.
"There's lots of stuff for her to get into," said Reed.
After the construction work is completed and the residents move in, Masie will still have plenty of room to play. The metal playground equipment, merry-go-rounds, slides and jungle gyms, left behind by the district, will stay outside for local children to use, said Reed.
"A lot of the community still uses it," said Reed.
Other items left behind - cafeteria tables, typewriters, bookshelves, projectors - are available for sale. They currently fill an area in the cafeteria/gymnasium that will become a community room for the future residents.
Reed said he was still in the process of obtaining permits, but he hopes to be ready for contractors to begin work by next year.
He was already being contacted by locals looking to sell their homes and move into a retirement community, he added.
As for what the name of the senior living facility will be, Reed said he was still unsure, but was considering keeping Leck Kill in the name somehow.