SPEARFISH — Rand Williams stood outside East Elementary School Monday morning and there were no children playing on the swings, slides or monkey bars.
He stood there, not as only a former student or a community member, but as the school's new owner.
Williams purchased the portion built in 1924 during an auction Monday.
The Spearfish School District declared the building surplus at a previous board meeting and moved to sell the 84-year-old building, as a new elementary school will open this summer.
“It is a magnificent building,” Williams said. “The school district has been great stewards of the building.”
Bidding started at $250,000, but the only bid made was Williams' $100,000 bid.
While he said he was not completely sure of what he would turn the former school into, he said that transforming it into an apartment building is “a strong possibility.”
A move in that order is not unheard of. The former Central School in Lead was turned into condos by its developer.
“I love old buildings,” said Williams, who also owns the old Spearfish city hall built in 1938. It is home to several businesses.
Whatever the purpose of the former school, “It's not going to be a small task,” he said.
Williams graduated from the school in 1971, during which it was a high school and junior high school.
“I had a lot of good friendships come out of this building,” he said.
School board members and other school district officials were on hand at the auction to see what would happen.
Dan Olson, the principal of East Elementary and now Creekside Elementary School, said a lot of great memories came from the building.
“I've been able to compare what I thought of the school when I was a student to what I thought of it as a teacher and now its principal,” Olson said.
Olson graduated from the high school in 1978.
“I've spent not quite half my life in that building,” he said. That began in sixth grade, when he started junior high in the building, then high school, his student teaching days, the time he spent as a teacher and now as a principal.
He said some of his fondest memories came from his days in athletics and one particular memory of helping his biology teacher feed a rattlesnake on the third floor of the building.
“My job was to tap on the screen so the snake would pay attention to me while the teacher dropped the mouse in,” he recalled.
The school board approved the sale Monday evening with little discussion.
“We sold a building,” said Board President Dr. Randall Royer.
The board also approved a proposal to demolish the breezeway connecting the older portion of East Elementary to the part constructed in 1961. The district will maintain the newer building and will likely use it to house kindergarten classes.
The last building the district sold was the former Central Elementary School located on Jackson Boulevard.
Royer said that building, constructed around 1960, sold for about $750,000. He added that an accurate comparison could not be made between the two schools as Central Elementary was located on a main thoroughfare and had more land and more uses practical to it.
“It's really apples and oranges,” he said of the two buildings.
The district sold Central Elementary during a time that the student population was declining.
The school board chose to build the new school after it was determined that the cost to upgrade East Elementary School would cost slightly less that the cost to build a new school.