Fate of Kettering schools’ Barnes building unclear after 2 years; talks possible

Asbestos abatement finished for 95-year-old former school on Far Hills Avenue; Schiewetz Foundation is interested in saving building, wants further discussion

With the abatement done on Kettering City Schools’ oldest building, officials said talks are expected to be renewed about preserving at least part of the 95-year-old structure that was approved for demolition.

Removing hazardous materials from the vacant D.L. Barnes building at 3750 Far Hills Ave. has been a key factor in the lack of discussions in recent months about the fate of the school district’s first high school, officials said this week.

That work, which was recently completed, was necessary regardless of whether the entire building is torn down, said Jeff Johnson, business services director of Kettering schools.

The Schiewetz Foundation of Dayton has expressed interest in salvaging Barnes since shortly after Kettering’s board of education voted in late 2022 to demolish it.

The board agreed the building was not worth funding further with taxpayer money, but said it would consider private organizations’ efforts to save at least the original section.

Because of the abatement work, “it’s been months” since the Schiewetz Foundation of Dayton has had any substantive talks the district, said Brady Kress, who has been involved with the foundation’s efforts in a separate capacity from his work as president and CEO of Dayton History.

The Barnes building was built in 1929 as a high school and then served as a junior high before the district consolidated in the 1980s.

Its original section was constructed with “solid masonry and stonework that would never be used in a modern structure,” Kress has said.

For decades, the building housed Kettering schools’ central office, then the administration moved to Lincoln Park Drive about five years ago.

Kettering’s school board was last briefed on the Barnes building in a Feb. 6 work session, when the abatement was discussed, district records show.

And Barnes’ future has not been a topic of the board in recent months, President Toby Henderson said.

While Henderson said there’s no urgency in resolving the issue, as an individual board member he would like to see a decision on Barnes this year.

“Me personally — now, I’m not talking for the entire board on this point — I very much want to have resolution in terms of what we’re doing with the building,” he said.

“Frankly, I personally believe we already have a resolution,” Henderson said, referring to plans for demolition. “Just from my personal view, we have a plan,” he said. “I’m not saying that we’re not open to alternatives. I just haven’t seen (them). I’m not aware of any alternative that I believe to be a viable alternative.”

Kress said the sides “need to talk again and see where they are (in the process) and how things went” with the abatement.

Among the questions “we’re probably going to have is ... were there any surprises when they were doing the abatement?” he asked, adding that he doesn’t believe there were.

“And with any project, there’s always the different degrees of invasive tactics to make sure they get everything,” Kress said. “That would be one thing we would be interested in.”

Meanwhile, Henderson said, the school district must continue to ensure the building is secure.

“It’s a big, beautiful building sitting there. It’s completely empty and can’t be occupied,” he said. “So, we’ve got to deal with it.”

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