Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Red Lake Nation purchases Central Elementary near downtown Bemidji

Central Elementary School on Nov. 21, 2023. The school has been shuttered since June 2021.
Larissa Donovan
Central Elementary School on Nov. 21, 2023. The school has been shuttered since June 2021.

Central Elementary was vacated in 2021 during Bemidji Area Schools' budget reduction efforts, with the district declaring the school as surplus property in August.

BEMIDJI — The vacated Central Elementary School building in Bemidji will soon be under new ownership after the school board approved a purchase agreement last night.

The Red Lake Nation intends to purchase the retired elementary school building near Bemidji’s downtown, with the Bemidji School Board unanimously approving a $350,000 purchase agreement.

School Board Chair Ann Long Voelkner said Red Lake Nation’s intent for the building is to create a "one-stop access point to" address Beltrami County’s high rate of poverty, using the space as a collaborative place of connection and access to services.

"(Red Lake Nation) would like to create the space and ideas for development of partnerships within the community .... within our regional area. Bemidji State has already indicated that students will be able to be a part of this opportunity to further learn within their degree programs," said Long Voelkner.

Central Elementary’s current building was built in the 1950s, replacing an earlier structure that burned down.

In 2021, the school was shuttered as part of budget reduction efforts. At the time,the district was looking to cut $5.6 millionfrom its budget, with the closure of the school estimated to save around $450,000 a year.

Some of the terms of the purchase agreement include the district’s first right of refusal for future real estate transfers, and the structure can’t be used for a PreK-12 school.

Larissa Donovan has been in the Bemidji area's local news scene since 2016, joining the KAXE newsroom in 2023 after several years as the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting.