Lecompton volunteer group turns old school building into community hub once again

photo by: Lawrence Journal-World file photo

A community effort has reclaimed the old Lecompton High School building, 640 E. Woodson Ave., into a community center that is now home to a town library, community clothes closet, a children's dance studio and more.

One of the volunteers who helped reclaim a closed and vacant school in Lecompton says he is pleased the building is once again a hub of community activities.

“There’s something going on down there all the time,” said Greg Howard. “That’s satisfying, because we’ve done a great deal of work.”

The approximately four-year old project has gone so well that community leaders are preparing to invest approximately $30,000 more to improve the building and keep it operating for years to come. Plans call for a $28,000 roof project to begin soon, with $23,000 coming from the city of Lecompton and $5,000 coming from the Lecompton Community Pride group, which has made the old building its labor of love.

“That will protect all the work we’ve done in there,” said Howard, who is vice president of Lecompton Community Pride.

The volunteer group manages the community center in the building that opened in 1928 as Lecompton High School. The high school closed in 1970 with the opening of Perry-Lecompton High School and fell into the city of Lecompton’s hands when its last tenant, the John Dewey Learning Academy alternative high school, left in 2012.

The city entrusted the old school to Lecompton Community Pride in 2014, said Elsie Middleton, Lecompton city councilwoman and secretary of Lecompton Community Pride. The volunteers found a building divided into many smaller offices, in need of replacement windows, new carpeting, repainting and general cleanup and repair.

With years of sweat equity, the old school now is home to a city library, children’s dance classes, adult yoga and fitness classes, a community clothes closet and a Monday morning coffee gathering, Howard said. Community members gather in the building for weekly Weight Watchers meetings, water color classes and yoga, he said.

Part of the old ground-floor gym is now the reception area available for social gatherings like family reunions, and the community’s annual Christmas program is performed in the third-floor theater with its new windows, curtains and refinished floors.

The work on the school continues with the building’s first-floor restrooms scheduled to be modernized, Howard said, in addition to the new roof.

Such work ends up being a joint effort of the city and the volunteer group.

“The city still owns the building, but Lecompton Community Pride pays all the utility bills and manages the activities,” she said.

Lecompton Community Pride was organized with the help of the Douglas County Extension Council. The local group is associated with the Kansas State PRIDE program, a community-development partnership of K-State Research and Extension, the Kansas Department of Commerce, Kansas Masons and Kansas PRIDE Inc.

Kansas State PRIDE first recognized Lecompton Community Pride’s efforts at the school with a three-year Community of Pride Award in 2015, Howard said. With its work to upgrade the building and success in making it a hub of community activities, Kansas State PRIDE recently awarded Lecompton Community Pride a second three-year Community of Pride Award, he said.

The community center is realizing the vision she had when she ran for city council to support the old school’s rehabilitation, Middleton said.

“It’s getting there,” she said. “We’ve made a lot of progress.”


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