Cook Hospital leads effort to reuse empty school building
COOK – The Cook Hospital is spearheading an effort to find another use for the abandoned Cook School building.
The hospital has invited state Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and state Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, in addition to representatives from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, ISD 2142, Scenic Rivers Health Services, Bois Forte Tribal Government and Cook Area Chamber of Commerce to a discussion about options for the building. The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 21 at the hospital’s conference room.
“There are many ways this can be viewed, so it will take a joint effort by many groups to bring together ideas or possibilities,” states a letter sent to the invited parties by Cook Hospital Administrator Al Vogt and Cook-Orr Healthcare District Board President Judy Pearson. “The hospital may be interested in being a partner, but cannot approach this as a lone entity. It will not take long for the building to deteriorate without some attention, but the window of opportunity is short.”
Pearson said they’ve received numerous calls from people concerned about the future of the building, which was closed at the end of the 2011-12 school year. Students from Cook and neighboring Orr now attend the new North Woods School, located about five miles north of Cook.
The hospital has expressed interest in utilizing some of the facility’s space, Pearson said, but needs partners to share in the cost of reopening a portion of the building. “It’s quite clear to us we can’t do it on our own,” she said, “We need a broader vision than just the hospital.”
She said both the multi-purpose room and swimming pool are key assets, but only if they remain in viable condition.
The heat has been turned off at the Cook School, but the building and its assets are in good shape, according to Tom Cundy, maintenance director for ISD 2142.
The pool was partially drained below the water lines to the pool. “The remainder of the water was left in the pool to keep it from floating up,” Cundy explained. “It was prepared as you would an outdoor pool; this method was recommended by all pool companies contacted.”
After its closure, the school was the target of some vandalism. Two windows were broken, said Cundy, but both have been secured.
Meanwhile, the Orr School, which has been vacant for nearly two years, remains listed for sale. Superintendent Teresa Knife Chief recently gave the Orr City Council permission to remove books and shelving from the school’s library to create a small library in the old Orr City Hall, but said fixtures should remain intact for a potential future buyer.
The district successfully sold two other abandoned buildings. The Cotton School was purchased by a non-profit group, which has converted the school into a community center, while the AlBrook School was purchased by a private party.