The old Bayfield Primary School is becoming a community hub of sorts, housing new organizations in the building’s classrooms and forming a unique partnership with the school district.
Last Saturday, several nonprofits introduced their new spaces to the public at an open house in the former primary school. The organizations’ partnerships with the Bayfield School District could develop the school into a town community center. However, the partners are “proceeding with caution” while testing out the idea, said Kevin Aten, Bayfield School District superintendent.
“Part of this is really establishing relationships with people who typically do not work together,” Aten said, such as doctor’s offices and community colleges. “We have not committed long term to all of this, but everybody has invested.”
The old primary school emptied during the summer of 2018 as the district moved classes into its new or renovated buildings, funded by an almost $40 million bond.
The district decided to repurpose the building after several organizations expressed interest in using the space. The school district provides custodial and maintenance needs while the organizations do their own remodeling. For most of the partners, the district charges little to no rent to give the organizations time to build clientele and become established. It plans to revisit rental agreements in the future.
“We’ll worry about the break-even point down the road,” Aten said, adding that his plan is to focus on building the community first.
In the meantime, the seeds of a unique community center, which includes health care, child care, education and community services, are growing in the old school building.
“It’s been really exciting to see these partners come together and be really committed to doing something special,” Aten said.
Pediatric Partners of the Southwest, a regional health care for-profit organization, and the town Parks and Recreation Office are using space in the building.
Two educational programs will start offering classes in the school this fall: The Wolverine Academy, a Bayfield School District alternative education program, and Pueblo Community College, which will offer courses for community members and high school students.
Two nonprofits also hold programs in the school: Community Treehouse, a nonprofit coworking and child care organization, and Pine River Shares.
For Pine River Shares, the opportunity to expand into four classrooms is helping the organization further its mission. The nonprofit is sharing its space with San Juan Basin Public Health’s Women Infants and Children program – bringing resources into the Pine River Valley that are typically found in Durango.
“Being an anchor tenant of a community center has been a vision of ours for a very long time,” said Pine River Shares coordinator Pam Willhoite, who first expressed interest in using empty school spaces 10 years ago.
“We are doing exactly what Pine River Shares envisioned – we’re building a community center in the community in partnership with the school district.”