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School District 2 trustees got a glimpse inside the shuttered Rimrock Elementary School on Thursday afternoon — many for the first time. 

Trustees and district staffers were touring the school to see what could be done with the building as the district takes the next steps in planning for the future of its facilities.

"It's important that we do something so that it's not making people wonder," said Teresa Stroebe, board chairwoman. 

The district has crafted a master facilities plan, which calls for the construction of two new middle schools and an elementary school and upgrades to the majority of its existing elementary schools.

The plan's call for new schools while one sits vacant puts pressure on the board to find the right solution for Rimrock, Stroebe said.

She stepped outside the front of the school and looked at the building and smiled. 

"I like recycling things," she said. 

Trustees are looking at three options with Rimrock — selling the school to Rocky Mountain College, which sits adjacent to the property; using the school to house students while renovations take place at McKinley and Broadwater elementary schools; or just reopening Rimrock as a regular school.

Reopening Rimrock would cost the district $1.2 million, as the building would be required to be brought up to current code, said Lew Anderson, SD2's facilities manager. 

Because the school was closed, it can't be grandfathered into older building codes, which still cover many of the district's older schools, he said. 

If reopened, it would be required to follow the latest building codes on the book, he said. 

The building's plumbing is an issue. Age and disuse of many of the pipes has left some of them inoperable — especially sewage lines, Anderson said. 

The building needs a new roof. Ceiling tiles are buckling in some classrooms where water has seeped through. Water on the floors in other spots has cracked and damaged the floor tiles, exposing asbestos. 

Those rooms would have to be abated, Anderson said. 

Work would need to be done to improve the building's heating and cooling systems. Right now, the school operates on a boiler system.

It would also need an overhaul to its electrical systems.

"This building really is at the max in terms of electrical capacity," he said.

In terms of bringing it up to code, the district isn't sure exactly what would be required.

"That's kind of the wild card — what would the city require of us," Anderson said.

Rocky Mountain College has not made a formal offer on the school, although it has contacted the district to express interest. 

In 2008, when it was announced that Rimrock would be closed for good, the college made the district an offer of $800,000. 

Trustees will tackle the issue this summer. 

"It'll be good to get a decision," Stroebe said. 

Rimrock has become a front-burner issue for SD2. Student enrollment has grown rapidly over the past three years and many of the district's elementary schools are overcrowded and aging. 

To deal with the issue, last summer SD2 began the process of crafting a master facilities plan. Part of that process now will be deciding just what to do with Rimrock. 

Following that, SD2 will go after a multimillion-dollar bond with voters this fall to put in place many of the plan's recommendations.  

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Business Reporter

Business Reporter for the Billings Gazette.