GI Public Schools looking at Shopko building for new preschool

The vacant Shopko building could become an early learning center for Grand Island Public Schools.

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - In a recent board meeting, a proposal was introduced to renovate the vacant Shopko building in Grand Island to be utilized as a new early learning center for Grand Island Public Schools.

According to the CFO of GI Public Schools, Virgil Harden, there is already around a million dollars or so earmarked for renovating the current facility at Engleman Elementary School. But given the building was built in the 1960s, some are hesitant to proceed with renovations there due to the upkeep it would require.

"Certainly, we know that we have that million dollars plus that we have to invest in the current facility. So we have that in the bank. So we know we've saved up for that, we just really are holding back because we just think it's not a good situation to invest that money. It's just not wise." Harden went on to tell us that they have looked for other models of the conversion of a department store building to an education center.

"We actually did a field trip to Lexington Public Schools. They did that ten years ago. They took the old Wal-Mart building and reconfigured exactly what we're proposing, they've already done and they've been doing it for ten years. So, it's not a new model, it's something other communities have done, and so we just think it might be the right time."

The property of Shopko is owned by Ray O'Connor, who plans on gifting it to GIPS through their foundation. The worth of the property is around $3.3 million, and the contribution from GIPS would be around $6.35 million. Harden said "that is approximately a 52% return on investment."

While this is the current optimal proposal, it still has a lot of logistics to go through before becoming a reality. Earliest estimates for opening wouldn't be until the new 2021 school year.