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“Old School” Cool for Wyoming

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December 24, 2008

Casper, WY – Going "old school" in the New Year is the cause of the Alliance for Historic Wyoming. The group has been analyzing historic school buildings across the state, and interviewing community members, to see which buildings are worth saving in 2009.

Alliance board member Mary Humstone says state policies that pour money into districts for new schools have resulted in dozens of historic buildings being demolished, with dozens more on the "tear down" list. And, in many cases, public landmarks disappear.

"Buildings that were built in the early 1900s, brick and stone schools, were built to last forever, and they can last forever if they're well-maintained."

The new schools are usually welcome in communities because they create construction jobs and bring state-of-the art classrooms to the school district.

Humstone says communities are also often told the school has to be torn down because it would cost more to remodel it. She calls that an exaggeration that is never proven on paper.

"Every time I hear somebody say, 'The building has asbestos', I go, 'well, so what?' When you tear it down, you have to abate the asbestos. You have to take care of it no matter what you do."

Updating buildings also fits in with the "green" movement, according to Humstone, because it means fewer new materials, and the older schools have more natural light, reducing electricity usage. She hopes state policy can be updated to place value on the historic qualities and community significance of old schools.

Deborah Smith/Deb Courson, Public News Service - WY