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Galesburg to begin master planning for community center

 Churchill Junior High closed at the end of this school year and is now owned by the city of Galesburg.
Jane Carlson
Tri States Public Radio
Churchill Junior High closed at the end of this school year and is now owned by the city of Galesburg.

Churchill Junior High has officially closed its doors as a school, but the city of Galesburg is moving forward with a study that will determine the building’s viability as a community center.

The school closed as part of Galesburg District 205’s facilities plan.

Beginning in the fall, all seventh through 12th graders will attend classes at a remodeled Galesburg High School.

That leaves behind classrooms, a gymnasium, cafeteria, and lots of outdoor space that some city leaders believe could serve the public in a different capacity.

Others think it’s too expensive of a proposition to repair and convert the building into a community recreation center, with early estimates up to $10 million.

The city council has been at odds over the project and in May tabled an agreement for a master plan to evaluate goals and options for a community center.

But this week, the council voted 4-1 to proceed with the master plan agreement with Farnsworth Group for around $19,000.

“The goal of the master planning study is to establish through a consensus process a program of spaces and activities the proposed facility needs to accommodate,” said interim City Manager Wayne Carl. “Once the proposed activities and programming are determined, they will evaluate the existing Churchill building for housing the programs.”

Carl said the study will also examine the viability and cost of constructing a new building instead of repurposing Churchill.

Council members Dwight White, Kevin Wallace, Sarah Davis, and Jaclyn Smith-Esters voted in favor of the agreement.

Council member Bradley Hix voted no and Larry Cox abstained. Wayne Dennis was absent.

The city acquired Churchill at no cost after the council approved an intergovernmental agreement with the school district on a 4-3 vote.

Potential uses for the school building as a city-owned community center include kitchen rental, art and music classes, indoor walking and recreation, outdoor recreation, youth and senior citizen activities, and community events.

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Jane Carlson