Editor's note: This editorial originally contained passages suggesting that the public would have a 12-month period to come up with uses for the old school building. But no such waiting period will be observed; the building is earmarked for demolition.
A battle between the South Madison Community School Corp. and local history enthusiasts cost the school system — and the taxpayers who support it — about $50,000 last year in legal fees, in addition to an estimated $30,000 to keep the building safe and standing.
School officials want to demolish the 1936 building, originally built as Pendleton High School and later turned into a junior high, and use the space for parking.
An important break in the stalemate occurred last week when the school board prevailed upon the Pendleton Historic Preservation Commission to again consider a proposal to deal with the old building.
The commission had voted down the school district's attempt last year to demolish the building, a decision that was later upheld when a judge ruled that the school district had not demonstrated that the expense of making the building useful would be onerous.
But this time around, after school district officials had more numbers to back up their assertion, the commission voted 2-1 to let South Madison officials move ahead with their plans.
Old buildings, steeped in history, can hold profound sentimental value in a town like Pendleton, where history is deeply appreciated. School buildings are, perhaps, unique in this regard because so many people spent hours upon hours during their formative years in classrooms, in the gym and on the grounds.
It's sad when an old school has to be torn down, but sometimes it has to happen. Economics dictate it. In this case, tearing the building down and putting up a parking lot will be costly — about $600,000 — but renovating the old high school could cost as much as $5 million, school officials say.