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Thatcher’s dilemma

Dear Editor,

Thatcher area is made up from a series of small communities that were started at the lower end of the valley originally known as Gentile Valley. This area includes parts of Franklin and Caribou counties. Those early hamlets were known as Mound Valley, Perry, Cleveland, Rose Hill, Cove and others. The settlers were hard and determined, they raised large families and shared the good and bad times with their neighbors. They helped build homes, barns, churches and schools. More than one road was improved from dirt trail to gravel to asphalt to better serve them in their journeys to market, churches, schools and civic events.

They persisted and taught their children the values they believe in. This led to multi-generations of families throughout this area. In time it was necessary to consolidate churches and schools from one room arrangements to facilities that would accommodate better education and religious needs. This was viewed as progress and was accepted with pride in the betterment for their families.

Eventually this led to the formation and construction of the Central High School located in Thatcher. In 1934, the name was changed to Thatcher High School, until 1944, when due to a consolidation with Grace High School, it became known as Thatcher Elementary School. This facility has not only served the Thatcher area, but students bussed from the Grace area.

Many other changes have happened over the years, mainly due to aged church buildings. The Mound Valley, Cleveland and Thatcher buildings were demolished and those congregations were all consolidated into one Thatcher Ward, which now meets in the Williams Ward Building located in Niter. The Cleveland store and the Thatcher stores were either lost to fires or demolition. Another casualty was the post office which is now housed in a private home. The only remaining civic facility is the Thatcher Elementary School. Slowly time takes its toll on this community and its meeting places. How soon will Thatcher become as the dust of the times past?

What needs to be done? Recently the school board facilitated a bond election that consolidated the last Thatcher facility into the new Grace Elementary School building. Note that this building also replaces an aging elementary facility in Grace. Both the Thatcher and Grace buildings have served over the years with distinction and pride in educating their students. The word is that these buildings had outgrown their usefulness and some were concerned that the buildings were unsafe.

Back to Thatcher: if this building is demolished it means the end to the identity of those who have lived, those who now live and those who will come to live in a beautiful part of our valley. Where do these fine people meet, use library facilities, use recreational facilities, to name a few functions? How do they further their heritage without a civic facility? To replace this building today is beyond any imagination due to the costs especially from a community stretched far at this time.

Let us address some options that the school district has at their disposal: One is to donate the facility to a nonprofit organization run and sustained by the local population. This would require an all-out effort by the community to make it work. What is the upside? Community pride and belonging. How about the down side? Working together as those from a hundred plus years ago to have and keep something of their own. Digging deep and sacrificing to make it happen. Imagine the stories that would be told of their efforts to their grandchildren, just the same today from those multi-generation families.

Two is to let the board advertise the sale to the highest bidder who, if accepted, would do as they will accordingly to their needs. The risk is that the building would not be available as mentioned above.

So this is the dilemma! How do you citizens of Thatcher see yourselves in five years, 10 years, however far down the road that you can see or imagine? Remember that the school board represents the patrons — let them know how you feel at this time.

Larry Allen

Citizens for the re-purposing of the Thatcher School

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