LEWISTOWN - Last spring, five school buildings in Mifflin County closed their doors on their final school year.
This Saturday, two of those buildings may be sold at auction and put to new use.
Armagh Elementary in Milroy and Buchanan Elementary in Lewistown were among the five buildings that the Mifflin County School District closed last year amid budget cuts and a shrinking student enrollment.
he sign for an auction sits outside the empty Buchanan Elementary School in Lewistown.
This January, the school board approved the sale of the two schools at public auction.
The auction for Armagh, which sits on about 15 acres of land, will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, followed by the sale of Buchanan on its 17-acre parcel at 2 p.m. The school board reserves the right to reject any bids.
Selling the two buildings is a strategic move to save money in the Mifflin County School District.
Sean Daubert, chief financial officer at the school district, said it costs $15,000 to $16,000 per year just to continue to own the two empty buildings.
"Generally abandoned buildings decrease in value as they sit unoccupied," Daubert said. "The longer we hold onto these buildings the less they will be worth to sell."
Increased insurance premiums and potential vandalism also prompted the move to sell, he said.
Dallas Stahlman, director of buildings and grounds for the school district, said several parties have expressed interest in the shuttered schools.
Most of the contents inside each of the five empty buildings have been sold already, Stahlman said.
A final equipment sale for Highland Park Elementary, one of the five, is scheduled for 9 a.m. on May 19. Items include cafeteria equipment, tables, chairs, kitchen appliances, tools and other miscellaneous objects such as file cabinets, coat racks, band risers and exercise equipment.
Daubert previously said the school district netted about $25,000 in proceeds from the auction of items inside Armagh and Buchanan.
The school district has restrictions about the way it can use proceeds from selling unneeded school property.
Daubert said Pennsylvania school code dictates that the money must be used to cover capital outlays.
The financial resources gained from Armagh and Buchanan will help cover the cost of replacing the roof on the Mifflin County Junior High School, he said.
Don Chesney Auctioneering will conduct the sales on Saturday. More information about the auctions is available online at www.chesneyauction.com.
The fate of the other three empty school buildings remains to be seen.
Administrators and school board members discussed selling Brown Elementary and Strodes Mills Middle earlier this spring; but because both are adjacent to occupied schools, several officials said they had concerns about potential use of the sold buildings and the safety of nearby students.
Highland Park Elementary, the fifth closed school, is located across the street from the Mifflin County High School, and its land still is used for athletics.
In Juniata County, Susquehanna Elementary near Richfield also was closed last year to reduce budget costs.
Superintendent Richard Musselman said they have received several inquiries about the building "but nothing serious."
No decisions have been made yet about the future of Susquehanna, he said.