School board to decide the future of Merrill School building

School board to decide the future of Merrill School building

Areena Sorani and Kaisten Feiter

At the regularly scheduled meeting Oct. 26, the Oshkosh Area School District board members will vote to determine the future of the soon-to-be vacant Merrill School building. 

The school district plans to demolish the school and use that area for an Olympic size track and field.

According to Deputy Superintendent Dr. David Gundlach, the OASD released a follow up plan after voters approved the construction of Vel Phillips Middle School (VPMS) that would replace the old Merrill school with a full length track that includes a full-sized football and soccer field inside of it. The green space will also have three basketball courts, playground equipment, and a baseball/sofball diamond.

Gundlach explained that the district believes it needs to replace the green space that was used to build VPMS due to the enrollment numbers of the school.

We [currently] have 474 students at Merrill Middle School, and those students had used the green space which is now being used to construct VPMS.  When VPMS opens, we anticipate over 800 students will be using roughly the same amount of green space once the Merrill structure has been removed and the green space restored.”  

However, not everyone thinks the 120 plus year old building should be destroyed. It was built in 1901.

Shirley Brabender Mattox and Ellen Anderson, two members of the Save Merrill School group, believe that the building holds too much historic value to be demolished. 

“The building itself brings back memories of many students who went on to do amazing things,” Brabender Mattox, who taught 12 years at Merrill before retiring, says.

In fact, they found that the building meets 2 of the 5 criteria of the State Historical Society. 

“I spent several years studying Henry Auler, the architect from Oshkosh who worked with William Watrers, to educate Oshkosh about the amazing things he did,” Brabender Mattox says. 

Auler used art deco in his design, one of the criteria that makes it a historical building. Besides that, it was also one of the first junior high schools in the state.

According to Brabender Mattox, all eight of Auler’s other designs have moved onto new purposes, and she hopes Merrill will also.

The Save Merrill School group already reached out to potential buyers, who would receive a historical tax credit and could possibly receive more if the builder made it into low-income housing or veterans housing. 

With the money from selling the property, Brabender Mattox and Anderson think the district could purchase a lot southwest of the VPMS property.

“We have a 90 year lease on the East Hall Park [located between Wisconsin and jackson, New York and Prospect]. We pay $1 a year. It’s owned by the UW Board of Regents,” Anderson says. 

They plan to use east hall park; an empty field, to put a new track there instead of getting rid of Merrill Middle. 

The board meeting starts at 6 pm with a listening session beforehand. Any interested people are advised to plan ahead if they would like to speak at the meeting.

You can learn more about “Save Historic Merrill” at their website: