A grassroots movement led by a retired Hamburg school teacher delayed — at least temporarily — the demolition of a one-room schoolhouse in Bern Township.
Now, they are trying to figure out their next move.
The picturesque schoolhouse — once known as Epler School at the corner of Van Reed and Leisczs Bridge roads — was due to be torn down by the Greater Berks Development Fund in preparation for the construction of a nearly 100-acre industrial park. But last month the organization agreed to put aside any effort to demolish the school while officials attempt to devise a plan for the historic building.
County Commissioner Kevin S. Barnhardt reported at the commissioners meeting Sept. 5 that retired teacher Jane Goetz and 14 other concerned residents who want to see the schoolhouse saved from the wrecking ball will host a meeting to explore their options.
Barnhardt has said the future of the school presents some challenges.
He said he asked a firm that specializes in structural relocation to investigate the possibility of moving the stone schoolhouse. The good news, he said, is it can be done. The bad news is it will cost about $100,000 and there has been no interest from local groups — including the Berks County Heritage Center located less than a mile away — to find a new home for the schoolhouse.
Barnhardt said development fund officials have offered to keep the schoolhouse where it is if the county agrees to buy the building. But, given that it will be surrounded by an industrial park, he said that option is not necessarily the ideal spot for a historic schoolhouse.
And if the county does find a new location for the schoolhouse, it will be costly to restore it to its former glory since it had been converted into a home many decades ago.
"We're moving forward at least on trying to gauge the interest of the community to see what they want to do to save this schoolhouse," he said.
A meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Sept. 16 at the Berks County Heritage Center, 1102 Red Bridge Road, Bern Township to examine the future of Epler School and gauge community support. The possibility of forming an official Friends of the Epler School organization will also be a topic.