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Old school gets new life with Burnet County AgriLife

Burnet County Extension Agent Linda Wells (center) along with Burnet County Judge James Oakley (right) share how the new Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service building, which includes a full, commercial kitchen, will benefit the entire community. Burnet County is leasing a portion of the old Burnet Elementary School to use as the Burnet County AgriLife Extension Office. Photo by Daniel Clifton

Burnet County Extension Agent Linda Wells (center) along with Burnet County Judge James Oakley (right) share how the new Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service building, which includes a full, commercial kitchen, will benefit the entire community. Burnet County is leasing a portion of the old Burnet Elementary School to use as the Burnet County AgriLife Extension Office. Photo by Daniel Clifton

DANIEL CLIFTON • EDITOR

BURNET — After many years crammed into a corner of the Burnet County Courthouse north annex, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent Linda Wells was all smiles as she walked through the service’s new digs.

“It just means a lot that the county and the community value the AgriLife program,” Wells said. “This will allow the program to have greater outreach to the community. We’ll have more room for storage that’s right here, which means we’ll be more efficient. It just really allows us to continue to grow the program.”

Burnet County, which provides space for the AgriLife Service as well as other support, recently entered a 10-year commitment to “lease” a portion of the old Burnet Elementary School on Vanderveer Street. The Burnet Consolidated Independent School District moved students to Shady Grove Elementary.

While Quest High School will take over some of the Burnet Elementary campus, the district found itself with a lot of useable space.

The county and school district saw an opportunity to help each other.

The county renovated the auditorium, stage, kitchen, and several classrooms (making them into offices) for the Burnet County AgriLife Service. The additional space can also be used for other county needs, including training classes and meetings, Burnet County Judge James Oakley said.

The county is spending $50,000-$60,000 to make the renovations. The project hit a snag in early January when someone broke into the building and splattered paint all over the floor, walls, and windows. The vandal or vandals also poured glue on the stage floor, which had recently been refurbished.

Burnet County maintenance crews have been able to paint over the walls and redo the stage floor, but the main floor in the old cafeteria was still covered in paint during the recent tour. Burnet County Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery said insurance will cover carpeting the floor and making other repairs due to the vandalism.

Oakley said that while the vandal or vandals created heartache and more work, they wouldn’t keep the project from going forward.

Burnet Elementary School will get new life with the school district-county partnership.

The elementary campus addition, which will house the AgriLife program, was built in 1964. The main building goes back to the 1930s.

Oakley, Burnet County Clerk Janet Parker, and others talked about how they went to school as children at the campus. Oakley pointed out where the music teacher’s piano once sat on the stage and the principal’s office.

“If you went in her office, it wasn’t a social call,” he said with a laugh.

Along with AgriLife services, the addition could serve other programs in the future, including Meal on Wheels utilizing the kitchen to prepare meals.

“This is a win-win-win,” Oakley added, “for the county, the school (district), and the community.”

The county has an agreement with the district to use the building for the next 10 years at no cost. The school district remains responsible for the roof, but the county accepts responsibility for the interior.

“Just a big ‘thank you’ to the school (district),” Oakley added.

The AgriLife staff, which includes Wells, Extension Agent Kelly Tarla, and administrative assistant Debbie Trevino, will begin moving into their new offices Jan. 18.

“It really does open up what we can do with the program we can offer,” Wells added.

daniel@thepicayune.com