What place does the 95-year-old annex building have in the La Grande School District’s future?

The La Grande School Board began taking a serious look at this Wednesday during a work session. The board discussed a range of options regarding the building, which was built in 1924 and now houses a gym used extensively by the school district.

The board wants to determine if the annex, about 20 feet north of La Grande Middle School, should receive moderate or major restoration work or be torn down.

The board agreed Wednesday to have the school district hire an engineering firm to conduct a structural analysis to evaluate the condition of the building.

“We need to have a better understanding (of what needs to be done),” said school board member Joe Justice. “We need to look deeper.”

Several board members said they did not want the district to begin repairs on one aspect of the building only to discover that many other portions of the annex need major upgrades.

Board chair Merle Comfort agreed that the board would not approve any work until the district knows if it can afford them.

Joseph Waite, the La Grande School District’s bond and facilities manager, said it would probably cost between $2,000 and $3,000 to have a structural analysis of the building is done.

The annex’s gym receives the most use of any portion of the building. The gym is used most often by La Grande Middle School for physical education classes. It is one of two gyms LMS uses. The other comprises the west side of the middle school.

LMS Principal Kyle McKinney said the annex serves a valuable role.

“If we didn’t have the two gyms, I don’t know what we would do,” McKinney said.

The gym in the annex, which has batting cages, is also used by La Grande High School’s baseball, softball and soccer teams and by outside organizations.

Others who depend on the annex include the La Grande School District’s food service program, which has a walk-in freezer there and uses space for the storage of dry food and equipment. The school district’s grounds and maintenance department also makes extensive use of the building for storage.

At the beginning of the work session, Waite presented the school board with three preliminary options to consider for the annex building:

Option 1: The annex building would be maintained on a status quo basis. This would involve replacing the roof for about $240,000 and performing upgrade work estimated to cost $150,000, assuming a structural analysis does not find any unforeseen problems.

Option 2: The entire annex building would be replaced for a cost of between $4.5 million and $9 million.

Option 3: The annex building would be replaced by two separate facilities — a field house for athletics and a warehouse. The total cost of doing this would be between $3.75 million and $8.25 million.