By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer
The sale of the former St. Joseph School building is bittersweet for the neighboring hospital.
Sharon Regional Health System said farewell to their neighbor of more than 100 years on Monday but is thankful for the breathing space.
“We were lucky to have them there,” Ed Newmeyer, hospital spokesman, said. “They were longtime great neighbors and great partners next door to us.”
Hospital officials signed off on the final purchase of the 51,219-square-foot building and 3.58 acres at 760 E. State St. from the Catholic Diocese of Erie for $600,000.
The sale is the final chapter for generations of students who left their mark at St. Joe’s school.
“I think it’s kind of an emotional time for the families who have spent two and three generations being part of St. Joseph School,” Rev. Glenn R. Whitman, pastor of the church, said. “It’s kind of a final goodbye to a building that houses a lot of good memories and traditions.”
Newmeyer said hospital management is still evaluating options on how the property will be used.
“It’s premature to speculate right now,” Newmeyer said. “That will be discussed as part of the strategic planning process.”
The hospital moved into the neighborhood in the 1890s a few years after St. Joe’s parish. Until the 1960s, St. Joesph’s Church stood on what is now lawn in front of the school.
The hospital has been boxed in with an apartment tower to the west, the ravine behind it, and the school on the other side.
“We have been landlocked for a number of years,” Newmeyer said. “It’s a great opportunity to have access to that (property).”
Parking guidelines have not been set for the newly acquired lots in front of and behind the former school, Newmeyer said.
The hospital recently removed the $1 fee imposed on visitors since 1975 in order to gain access to the main designated parking lot on Jefferson Avenue.
“We thought that was important – to make it free,” Newmeyer said. “We want to make that lot the closest for families to use.”
Parking outside the emergency room entrance will remain open to outpatients and ER patients so they have the most convenient access to the hospital, Newmeyer said.
The hospital board in February 2011 approved an agreement with the diocese to acquire the property when it became available.
St. Joseph School was consolidated with Notre Dame Elementary in Hermitage to form Blessed John Paul II Elementary School. Sharon City School District then used the building for elementary students for two years while a new Case Avenue Elementary School was being built two blocks away. The new Case Avenue opened this fall.
Generations of students benefited by having access to the hospital through tours, Halloween parades and projects such as decorating hospital windows facing the school.
Rev. Whitman said after some parish debts are paid off, the money acquired from the sale may be made available as grants to parish families who send their children to the Catholic school system.