The historic Clements School has been returned to the hands of the Clements community, though precisely what those hands will do with the space isn't yet decided.
The Lodi Unified School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to sell the site for $1 to an entity that represents the community. The decision came after several months of discussion by the Surplus Property Advisory Committee made up of residents and led by Art Hand, assistant superintendent of facilities and planning.
The committee offered four options to the board that they could live with, including sale, lease and returning the building to the community.
Three non-profit organizations already work to preserve local gems and the rural lifestyle in the area. These include the Clements-Lockeford Lions Club, the Glenview Cemetery Association and the Clements Fire Department. Ed Jones, chairman of the Surplus Property Advisory Committee, proposed that each group offer one or two representatives to manage and maintain the school.
Trustee George Neely suggested leasing the property to a community group for three to five years.
"It's not a good idea to be giving away assets," he said.
But trustee Bonnie Cassel, who owns the Country Joe coffee shop next door to the school, defended the committee's recommendation.
"They are very much able to take care of this wonderful little school," she said. "Give it back to the people that care so much for it."
The decision was met with cheers and applause by a group of Clements residents. Sandy Hale worked for 10 years as a teacher at the school.
"I live in the country out there. It's a neat place, and I wanted to see it returned to the community," she said.
During the committee process, residents worried their preference to take care of the place themselves wouldn't be an option. But at the last minute, the idea to keep it in the community went to the top of the list of recommendations.
"It went from impossible to probable to a miracle," said Jones after the meeting.
The process isn't complete. Some kind of entity must be created to accept the school. The board will return at the next meeting with a formal resolution to sell the school to that party for a token $1. But the residents are already excited.
Hale tossed out several ideas to put the building to use. It could serve as a community center, a preschool or a meeting room for the Lions' Club. With an upgrade to a commercial kitchen, lunches could be served for seniors.
"There's a bazillion things we could do with it if we put our mind to it," said Steve Granlees, chair of the Clements-Lockford Lions Club.
"But there was no putting our mind to it until we had ownership," added Jones.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at email@example.com.