FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The potential demolition of a former southeast-side elementary school has been put pause as a group of neighbors work to save the building. Ward Elementary School, owned by Fort Wayne Community Schools, has become a discussion point between the neighbors, school system and ARCH.
Ward Elementary School, later named L.C. Ward Education Center was built near the intersection of Oxford Street and Warsaw Street in the early 1930’s, opening in 1931, according to ARCH Executive Director Connie Haas Zuber. 90 years later, the building sits empty.
“This building has a place in our community,” Donita Mudd told WANE 15. “You got to have something unique and Ward can be our unique catalyst, our spark to economic development.”
A group of neighbors gathered at the school building Friday afternoon after Mudd, who once served as a substitute teacher in the building, noticed a request for demolition bids in a newspaper.
“I just see the possibility when you use those historic buildings or those older buildings, what it can be and the character that’s there that’s typically enhanced when the developers the construction people go in,” Mudd added. “It’s like a totally different building, but the bones are still there, the outside is there and that uniqueness and the character is still there.”
Mudd said she hopes Fort Wayne Community Schools will transfer ownership to ARCH and take half or less of the demolition money and give it to ARCH to maintain the building while a developer search happens.
“This is a lovely building,” Haas Zuber said. “Yes, to reuse it, money will be spent on it, but it is not an undoable project. The stewardship of this building has been good. It’s sound. It’s been well cared for. This is a good candidate for reuse.”
WANE 15 reached out Fort Wayne Community Schools leaders for a response to Friday’s protest.
Fort Wayne Community Schools closed Ward Education Center in 2017. The building required millions of dollars in repairs and renovations to remain an adequate learning space, and FWCS had a newer facility in much better condition that could be used to house the District’s alternative learning program (the former Nebraska Elementary, now the Center for Academic Success at Nebraska). After sitting vacant for three years, FWCS investigated demolishing Ward. As concerns and interest have been raised about the building, those plans are currently on hold. FWCS officials will meet with community leaders, elected officials and ARCH to discuss the building later this month.Krista Stockman, Public Information Officer
“ARCH has gone through this for months now, with the deepest respect for Fort Wayne Community Schools – it’s concerns are crucial – the neighborhood’s concerns are crucial,” Haas Zuber added. “We hope that ARCH’s interest in this building is also seen as important. If we can find a way to make all three of those things work together, we will have a win-win-win for all of us.”