Briscoe Elementary School hasn't seen students since the district closed it in 2003 — if you don't count the children and adults who have taken art classes and music lessons there, or the learning that takes place at the Oregon Child Development Center.
Add the playing field behind the building and Briscoe's value as a community asset becomes clear. The dilemma facing its owner, the Ashland School District, is what to do with it going forward.
The district's mission is to educate students, not to manage property it no longer uses. But selling Briscoe and Lincoln, another closed school, could take away a community asset.
The Lithia Arts Guild and the Child Development Center lease space in the building, but the money that generates is not enough to compensate the district for years of deferred maintenance estimated at $3 million that must be addressed.
The district has asked for public comment in a forum scheduled for May 4. That's the right thing to do. Briscoe belongs to the school district, which ultimately means the public, and the building is part of the community.
The property's commercial value would be astronomical in the Ashland market, but the building and grounds have value as a community gathering place that can't be measured in dollars and cents. A suggestion to move district administrative offices there is worth considering.
The district should look for a solution that best serves the interests of its students and the larger community.