LaGrange shows off school building turned into municipal offices
By Bruce Walton | The Chronicle-Telegram Published on Feb. 25, 2019 | Updated 6:37 a.m.
LAGRANGE — The village administration held its first open house at the former high school that has been transformed into village offices.
Mayor Kim Strauss said the event was to show the residents the hard work they’ve put into the building, and the potential it has for later renovations. Although the building has been open to the public, this, he said, was the official debut.
“This time we opened everything and people can even wander and see what we’ve done, and I think we all enjoyed it,” he said.
LaGrange has been working on renovating the old high school and middle school, which are connected, for a couple years now — changing some of the flooring, layout and structure, while also keeping true to the original style and design of the school. The village closed its offices at 355 S. Center St. late last year to move into the newly renovated offices at the former school.
On the tour, residents could see those changes like in the old library from Keystone Middle School that became the new police station, which gives the department an estimated six times more office space than it had at the old location, according to village maintenance employee Mike Kroupa. The public entrance to the police station is the lobby of the former Keystone Middle School, which remains much the same as it did when the school was in operation. The woodshop room was converted into a garage that can hold six vehicles for the police department while the cafeteria was transformed into the new council chambers.
The residents also had a chance to see the school they or their children might have attended. Janet and Ronald Mertz both had attended the three-story section of the school — the oldest portion built in 1899 — that was demolished. But the couple had four children and six grandchildren graduate from the district that went through the school.
“I think it’s nice, they did a wonderful job,” Janet Mertz said.
“We’re really glad, too, that we can use the building,” Ronald Mertz said, “It would’ve been a shame to tear it down.”
Strauss said the village looked into building a new village facility, but the project would have cost about $2 million. The total cost of the renovations at this point is about $400,000, he said. There’s still more classrooms to be renovated, but what they have right now is enough for the administration offices.
In the future, Strauss said he hopes the city can renovate the old gymnasium and rent spaces in the rest of the building to help pay for the utility bills.