When it was decided several years ago to close the Southard School, there were many questions about what to do with the then empty building. In the past few months a definitive answer has come as the old elementary school is becoming a community center to be used by the whole town.
At Wednesday night's meeting of the , Board Secretary Ronald Sanasac gave the first full update on the status of the building and how it is currently being used. "The board's goal of creating a community learning and enrichment center at the Southard building while also enhancing revenue is going along very well," he said.
Sanasac said there have been several factors that have contributed to the success of the building's transformation even in just a few short months. A big part of that is a between the board, the township and the Howell .
With the PAL running not only its own programs but also bringing some from the former recreation department under their wing, Sanasac said there have been activities offered for just about everybody in the township. He pointed to just a few of those examples including yoga classes, Zumba, mommy and me programs as well as college prep classes.
In addition to PAL there are other groups using the building including Accelero which runs the head start program in the building as well as a local church that gathers there on the weekend.
The next board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 25 at Middle School North.
The impact of the new building has also been seen by groups outside of Howell. A meeting of the Monmouth County School Board Association was recently held in the remodeled conference center and Sanasac said that was a big hit with those in attendance. "They were very impressed," he said. "They said they would come back and some of the other attendees have already reached out to discuss renting the room and utilizing it."
The district has also been using it as a common location for professional and curriculum development which Sanasac has also been a benefit to everyone involved.
In the first calendar year Sanasac said the building should make the district close to $140 thousand in revenue including close to $121 thousand in this fiscal year. He also pointed out that those numbers figure to be at the bottom of the scale and the amount could increase as more people and groups utilize the facility. "I'm very excited," he said. "I think the board's goal of a community center is coming along nicely in cooperation with the township and the shared service and the help of PAL.
When Board President Tim O'Brien asked for clarification on the numbers Sanasac said that with the board setting a goal of $180 thousand in revenue for the building, "I think we are doing very well towards that."