Renovations to the Altbergthal-New Hope school are into the final phase as work on the building focuses on the inside.
A few years ago the school house, which was constructed in the early 1900s, was relocated to village of Neubergthal in 2012, a designated National Historic Site.
The local group that spearheaded the idea of moving the school house to Neubergthal felt the building was a good fit for the community in helping to relate the Mennonite experience on the Manitoba prairies. Restoration work of the building began shortly after the move and should be finished this year.
"We have spent about two years fixing things on the outside and are now into the last stretch of renovations on walls and that kind of thing indoors," said project spokesman and Mennonite historian Lawerence Klippenstein. "We're now looking at possibly finishing in fall."
Klippenstein says moving the Altbergthal school to Neubergthal in an effort to preserve the building was a great move, and he remains thankful a space was made available as part of the larger national historic site.
"Right now we're trying to integrate the smaller school project with a larger house-barn restoration which is underway on that same property as well. The Neubergthal Heritage Foundation has been very cooperative and most welcoming of our project, and we are now at a stage where we think merging the two distinct pieces into one larger project will be wise and will help with fundraising, so that we don't splinter things too much. It will coordinate what we thought all along could be one project."
An open house and ribbon cutting ceremony for the school is tentatively planned for September followed by several months of mop up fundraising to meet the final financial cost of the project. Klippenstein estimates the project committee has spent about $75,000 on the restoration work to so far.
As to the question of how the former school will be used in the community, Klippenstein says they are considering a number of options.
"Once word gets out about this very usable facility and people see the final product and like it, we think there will be a small and growing lineup of people who may want to rent the space or do something there without us having outlined a detailed plan. We also want to develop some exhibits and displays and maybe someone wants to establish a small office that's related to all of this. We'll figure this out in the months ahead."