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The Challis middle school building has housed the Bureau of Land Management since 2017. Next month the lease agreement with the school district ends. BLM officials have asked the school board to upgrade the building.

Challis school board members authorized Superintendent Lani Rembelski to spend up to $15,000 to work with an architect and commercial Realtor to develop a 20-year lease agreement with the Bureau of Land Management for space in the middle school building on Main.

The BLM rents office and parking space from the school district. The existing lease expires next month. School board members said they want to extend the lease. But, improvements must be be made to the building before the BLM can sign off on a new lease, school trustees were told at a special board meeting held Oct. 17. The improvements are required by the federal government. Among the requirements are installing a security system and improving electrical ground protection systems.

Brett Walthers, a lawyer with Boise-based Anderson, Julian and Hull, who consulted the board on the lease, estimated the improvements could cost the district up to $1 million. Walthers said it will be a “very long and involved process” to upgrade the former school and could take 18 to 20 months. In spite of the price tag he said the district will make money in the long run. He said all costs will be recovered during the 20-year lease with a profit at the end.

Board members Trish Farr and Janiel Parkinson supported the idea, saying the extra money could be put toward teacher pay.

Walthers said school officials need to ask the BLM for a time extension for the lease agreement because there’s not enough time before the Nov. 21 deadline to get cost estimates and hammer out a proposal. He suggested they extend the deadline to January.

The BLM began renting from the school district in 2017 after the Challis office burned to the ground in October 2016. The BLM now pays the district $70,000 a year in rent. The building hasn’t housed students on a daily basis since 2006.