The old Forest Grove School looks a little lonely, sitting out in the middle of nowhere, just a mile or two from rapidly growing housing subdivisions in Bettendorf to the south.
Surely, many of the thousands of motorists who have passed the one-room schoolhouse as they drive down Forest Grove Road wonder about its history, and its future.
We’re watching with interest a new effort to investigate how the building, which closed as a school in 1957, might be rescued and put to a new use.
A private group led by Sharon Andresen of Bettendorf is partnering with the Blunk family, who owns the land on which the school was built, to raise funds and enlarge its group of volunteers to investigate the possibilities.
Besides its enthusiasm and obvious affection for the 22-foot by 36-foot building, the group has a few other things in its favor — an early affiliation with the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend, which is handling any donations — an attorney, a construction company, a website creator and a person to write grant requests.
Cedar Rapids architect Doug Steinmetz, who toured the structure recently under a grant from the State Historical Society of Iowa, put a possible estimate for rehabilitation at about $160,000. And he indicated that with the school’s foundation largely gone, there is some urgency to at least build a “safety net” to stabilize it.
While the city of Bettendorf is looking to develop a nearby Forest Grove Park, we’re not suggesting that the school rehabilitation become part of a public project. There are too many other priorities that Bettendorf is tackling right now.
But we encourage the Forest Grove School supporters to continue their investigation into whether it’s feasible to save the schoolhouse and to what use it can be put.