Worship center expected to hold services in school

Howell officials still trying to maximize use of closed elementary building

— Christina Haberstroh

HOWELL — The Southard School on Kent Road, Howell, may have a new tenant once a week, according to Howell K-8 School District administrators.

At the Feb. 16 Board of Education meeting, Business Administrator Ronald Sanasac briefly discussed what could be a hopeful future for the former elementary school.

District officials closed the 50-yearold Southard School in 2009 because of declining enrollment in the district. The board retains ownership of the building.

Sanasac reported that the Howell Restoration Family Worship Center will be renting the school gymnasium every Sunday as soon as a lease agreement is signed.

The board unanimously approved the one-year lease to permit the religious organization to use the gym for its Sunday services. The deal is expected to bring the school district $28,000 in revenue.

In a related matter, Sanasac reported that the board’s buildings and grounds committee has come up with a plan that, if implemented, would turn the Southard School into something of a community center with various uses.

Presently, a small portion of the school is rented out to the Acelero Head Start program. The organization uses four classrooms and shared common areas and pays the Howell K-8 School District $40,000 rent per year, according to district administrators.

The board’s education committee may solicit other day care providers for the building, Sanasac said. Additional uses for the building could include some types of businesses, he said.

The board has been contacted by representatives of universities, community colleges and professional associations who have inquired about possible uses for the Southard School, Sanasac reported.

When theAvaya Corporation vacated its Lincroft office, the firm donated quite a bit of furniture to help furnish the building, Sanasac said. He said the board appreciated the donation.

Officials are considering the possibility of hosting professional development events and community education sessions in the building, he said.

Sanasac and board member Patrick Dowling, who sits on the buildings and grounds committee, agreed that efforts to maximize the use of the former school are moving in the right direction.