Sunset mayor issues call to alumni to help restore vacant building
SUNSET — For about 15 years, the two-story, red-bricked Sunset High School has stood boarded up and empty.
Mayor Cecil LaVergne is hoping to see the building revived with help from the school’s alumni.
“It is a cornerstone of the community,” said LaVergne, who’s leading efforts to raise money to restore the school building.
He’s recruiting the school’s graduates for a fundraiser to be held over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday to help pay for mold removal and other improvements to the shuttered building.
“We’re using Facebook to find musicians who graduated there and former students who will be home for the holidays,” LaVergne said. “We’re calling it Save Our School — SOS.”
Sunset High was built in the 1920s and the last class of seniors to walk its halls graduated in 1991, LaVergne said.
He said a tenant leased the building briefly about 15 years ago but it’s been empty since then.
The town will pay the estimated $25,000 costs of installing a new roof, LaVergne said, but the interior needs major mold remediation, fresh paint and other renovations before it can serve the community again.
LaVergne said the town may lease some of the space.
“I’d like to see it used as a study hall — a place for struggling students,” LaVergne said. “We’ve had several artists and musicians who said they’d donate their time to teach classes. I’d like to see one floor devoted to the arts.”
Vivian and Pete Olivier, alumni of the former school, purchased the school property in 1998 and donated it to the town.
“We wanted to give it back to the community and see something done for the community,” said Pete Olivier as he stood outside the red brick building.
The school is sandwiched between Town Hall and the public library and sits in front of the town’s community center, which was built on property where the old school’s gym once sat. Across the street are basketball courts and a large open field where the town holds its annual Herb Festival.
“It’s a beautiful building,” Vivian Olivier said. “It’s a shame we don’t have anything in it, but we don’t have the money.”
LaVergne said attempts to secure grants for the building’s restoration haven’t been successful.
“It’s going to have to be a community effort and we’ll have to decide how much do we want it,” he said.
Editor’s note: This article was changed on October 11, 2013, to reflect that the last class of seniors at Sunset High School graduated in 1991.