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Concerned neighbors change Bemidji School District's plans for Buzzle property

Donald Skerik, the grandson of Charley Roen, who gifted two acres of his land to the Buzzle School in 1901, and Donald Cloose, a neighbor of the property, thought it was especially important to go to the Bemidji School District's Board of Education meeting Monday night.

Skerik and Cloose met with Bemidji School District's Business Manager Chris Leinen, and two school board members before the meeting to discuss the future of the old Buzzle School property.

The property, located northeast of Pinewood in Buzzle Township, originally belonged to the Buzzle School, or School District 57, which eventually consolidated into School District 31.

Skerik and Cloose do not want to own the land themselves, however, they would like to see it maintained as public land.

"We want it to stay the way it is," Skerik said. "A lot of good people put a lot of hard work into something, and we would like to see it mended with a sign, to be left as a historical site and to keep it open to the public."

After hearing what was said at the listening session, the school board unanimously voted not to advertise for sealed bids for the sale of the land, but to, instead, ask township, county and state entities if they would be interested in purchasing the property.

The Buzzle School was known as "the school with only foot trails."

According to Louis Marchand's "A History of Rural Schools of Beltrami County," motor vehicles could not reach the building site and the construction and maintenance work required wagons in the years Buzzle was open.

Marchand wrote that the Buzzle School consolidated into Debs Consolidated School District 132, then to Pinewood CSD 74, and eventually to Independent School District 31. The school building sold for $200 in 1952 and was moved to Liberty Township to become the Town Hall.

Leinen learned of the property after hearing from a man who requested to purchase the property from the district.

In researching through the Beltrami County records, Leinen found two deeds, both of which are from Roen. The deeds, dated 1914 and 1924, report the transfer of two acres of property to School District 57 for the purpose of building and operating a school.

Cloose was in one of the last classes of students to the attend Buzzle School.

"We skied cross-country to get there," Cloose said.

He said many students used to downhill ski from the top of the hill where the school sat to the bottom of the hill, which was a steep slope.

"You had to be a pretty good skier to stand up on that hill," Skerik said.

Skerik said he visited the site two years ago and noted the school building's foundation was still visible.

"When my aunt was a student at Buzzle, the first day of school she told the teacher, 'Did you know that my dad gave the land to this school?'" Skerik said, smiling. "It was a school that operated and it's gone, but people know about it. All the neighbors know about that site."

Leinen said it is unlikely the school district will remain as property owner.

"I indicated to both gentlemen that the school is not the best curator of this property," Leinen said. "Our purpose is to operate schools. If we are owning property and not doing anything with it, it seems to me we are probably not following our charter as far as educating students."

Leinen said he also considered turning the piece of property into a school forest, but the distance was too far and the acreage was too low for it to meet the criteria for it to be a school forest.

"Land like this does have meaning to people," said school board member Ann Long Voelkner, who was present at the listening session with Cloose and Skerik. "Because of its historical connections and importance to generational families, it adds value to the land."

Superintendent Jim Hess said the school district will contact Buzzle Township, Beltrami County and the state to see if they are interested in taking ownership of the property. If not, he said, the school district will again have to make a decision on what to do with the property.