Schultz building resumes role as school

Schultz School once again will open its doors to students.

After a two-year legal battle, the Cape Girardeau School District will turn the property at 101 S. Pacific St. into the new home of the Alternative Education Center.

The center is currently located in eight classrooms leased from the Assembly of God's House of Hope outreach center -- the former May Greene Elementary -- at 1000 Ranney Ave., but the district's lease expires this year.

"It's a wonderful old building, much more conducive to secondary students," said Mike Dorris, director of the alternative center. "Here, the water fountains are low, the toilets are low, the sinks are low. We'll have much more space to spread out there."

Work has already begun on partitioning off around 10 rooms at Schultz for the learning center, adding air conditioning, painting and addressing some structural issues. The program will take up the first floor of the three-story building, using the gym and cafeteria for the center's 70-plus day students and 50 after-school students. Work should be completed in time to start using Schultz next fall.

"This was an extremely cheap alternative for us," said Mark Bowles, superintendent of Cape Girardeau schools. "We made the decision to put a minimal amount of money into making enough space there for the Alternative Education Center."

The building was built in 1914 and expanded in 1920 and 1941. It was renovated in 1965.

The Schultz building has been tied up in court since 2002, after Ray Bax, a Jefferson City developer, offered to buy the brick school for $2 million with plans to renovate it into office space for three state agencies.

However, Bax lost the bid for the office space and then attempted to withdraw his contract with the school district. The school board in turn filed a lawsuit for $2 million plus damages for legal fees and interest rate costs.

In November 2003, a judge ruled that the $2 million contract between the district and Ray Bax of RMB Inc.'s Bax Construction was valid and transferred the title to Bax. Because of Bax's impending bankruptcy, the school district settled last summer for $300,000 and the title was returned to the district.

However, because of the way the property was deeded to the school, the settlement money must either be placed in a trust fund or used to improve the building. Currently, Bowles said, the district has allotted around $50,000 of the settlement money for the learning center project.

Bowles said the district is also looking into additional revenue, such as state tax credits, to renovate the remainder of the building for other school programs or to lease to outside agencies.

The rest of the settlement money will remain in a trust fund drawing interest for the district.

335-6611, extension 128