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Published: Sunday, 7/24/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Health board to buy Lark School

Building to be a hub for public services

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Lark Elementary School, closed at the end of the 2010-11 school year by the Northwood Board of Education, was built in 1955. Lark Elementary School, closed at the end of the 2010-11 school year by the Northwood Board of Education, was built in 1955.
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Northwood's Lark Elementary School closed its doors for good this spring, but a number of Wood County agencies are coming together to make it a hub of services for people in northern communities such as Perrysburg, Rossford, and Walbridge.

The Wood County Board of Health has plans to purchase the school for $10, use part of it to offer public health services, and rent out much of the rest of it to Bowling Green-based agencies that want to get closer to the clients they serve.

"Our goal is to develop the opportunity for people in the northern part of Wood County to have access to services that they normally don't have access to unless they come down here," Health Commissioner Pamela Butler said.

In addition to immunization clinics and other health services, the health department may provide office space at the Lark building for its employees who work in the field. The Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities is considering using the building for adult day programming.

Juvenile Court is considering using some of the space for probation appointments, and the Children's Resource Center, which previously used a classroom at Lark, wants to maintain its programming there.

"I consider this an opportunity that's only limited by creativity," Ms. Butler said. "We've got space. We're looking down the road at possibly having some community gardens, just all those kinds of things."

In June, 2010, the Northwood Board of Education approved closing Lark Elementary at the end of the 2010-11 school year as part of a cost-savings plan.

Denise Niese, Northwood school board president, credited Superintendent Greg Clark with reaching out to potential users soon after the district decided to close Lark and house preschool through second grade at Olney Elementary, move third through sixth grades to the middle school, and have seventh through 12th grades at the high school. The elementary school on Andrus Road, which was built in 1955, is an anchor for the surrounding neighborhood, she said.

"The bottom line is we wanted to make sure the structure was secure and that that neighborhood did not become forgotten because the school was no longer there," Ms. Niese said. "If we, with the city and other county entities, can pull something together that can be viable for the community and northern Wood County, then it's a win-win for all."

Dennis Recker, Northwood city administrator said the city purchased the school property for $10 in June. It is in the process of having the 13.6-acre property surveyed and split.

The city plans to keep just under nine acres, including baseball fields and other green space behind the school that will be absorbed into Brentwood Park. The remainder of the property, including the school and parking lot, is to be transferred to the health department.

Wood County Juvenile Court Judge David Woessner said the court is "actively thinking about" using space at Lark to conduct probation appointments and possibly even court hearings.

"We have a good number of youth on probation in the north end of the county and a lot of the families we work with have transportation issues," he said. "It's an issue for them to drive down here."

Melanie Stretchbery, superintendent of the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities, said that for several years the board has been exploring the idea of taking its services north of Bowling Green because nearly half of Wood Lane's clients live north of State Rt. 582. Offering recreation, employment, and other adult services at Lark would reduce the cost of transportation as well as the time clients spend just getting to Wood Lane every day.

"People can spend up to 90 minutes one way just in transportation," Ms. Stretchbery said. "We think that's not really reasonable."

Ms. Butler said the cost for annual maintenance, repairs, and utilities at Lark averages $50,000 to $55,000. She's hoping the health department can break even through rental income. She said she does not yet know what the building will be called, although the health department has pledged to keep the Lark name, which dates to 1900, when the first Lark School was built.

"We're toying with the Lark Community Center. We're toying with the Wood County Health District Building at Lark," she said, adding that the health board hopes to finalize the purchase in the next few months and have the center fully operational by January.

"Our board is looking at this as a stepping stone to provide more services," Ms. Butler said. "We already provide 101, but we see this as a way to expand outside our own space."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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