EDGEWOOD, N.M. (KRQE) – Controversy is building in a New Mexico town over what to do with an abandoned elementary school. The school district is primed to tear it down, but people in the community are fighting to keep it standing. “This is the middle of Edgewood. Our town hall is right next door. Our community soccer field is right down the street. The animal control, the police department. Everything is right here,” says Sherry Abraham, who is a citizen of Edgewood as well as a former town councilor.

The old Edgewood Elementary School building closed to students around 2013 after the Moriarty-Edgewood School District (MESD) saw enrollment drop by about half from the early 2000s. Since then, the building has been used on and off by various organizations, the Town of Edgewood, and even a private preschool. However, by the end of June, everyone using the building was given notice they had to leave.

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“All of those people that utilize that facility were told once this building starts costing the district money to maintain that we’re no longer going to be able to do that because we have all the other facilities that we have students in that we need to maintain,” says Teresa Salazar, superintendent of MESD. The school district’s plans now are to demolish it. “It would cost as much to put a new roof on it which it needs than to tear it down. So it’s basically, it’s a wash on the dollar amounts,” Salazar says.

The decision sent shockwaves through the Town of Edgewood. “They promised us to be able to use it for our community even though it wouldn’t be a school anymore,” Abraham says. The town wants the district to either sell or donate the building to them, but town officials say the district isn’t cooperating.

“We have reached out in so many ways and they’ve absolutely stone-walled us. Won’t talk about it. They seemed offended by the idea that Edgewood wanted to have some input into what happens with this building even though it was promised to us by the board district/school board in order to use it for our community events,” says Jerry Powers, town commissioner of Edgewood.

However, according to the superintendent: “There was never a promise and they keep saying there was a promise…That is prime property that we’re going to be building a state-of-the-art elementary school in the future. So we do not want to be selling that, giving that to any other entity…So basically, it’s not for sale. The property is not for sale,” Salazar says.

Edgewood officials say it’s a waste of taxpayer money to tear it down, but the district says they would be using state funding for the demolition. Salazar says they will be asking state lawmakers for it next month. Now, a petition is going around trying to fight the demolition and asking to keep the building for the Town of Edgewood. “So far, the community response has been overwhelmingly in support of keeping this building,” Abraham says.

Salazar says there were discussions between the district and the town about the future of the site, but says those meetings were scrapped after the threat of a lawsuit popped up in town meeting agendas.