We’ve found one way for kids to learn virtually from home and be at school at the same time. What was once Perry Elementary School in Mount Morris, PA, is now for sale as a private home.
Listed for $2,375,000, the converted school at 145 School Road measures in at a whopping 14,716 square feet and combines the feel of a school with modern architecture.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime project, and it’s cool to live in a school,” says owner Crystal Smith. She and her husband took on the massive conversion project and have been living at school since December 2018. “Everybody thought we were nuts.”
The schoolhouse sits on 11 acres and has four bedrooms, more than four bathrooms, and much, much more.
“They took two classrooms and made an arcade room,” says listing agent Keith Herrington, who was once a student at Perry Elementary. “They took classrooms and made bedrooms and put bathrooms in.”
The kitchen occupies the old cafeteria space, but the institutional feeling of sad lunch trays is long gone. In its place is a modern cooking and eating space that won first place in Pittsburgh’s Finest Kitchens Fall 2019 edition.
“It’s still the same length and width as it was when it was the cafeteria,” Herrington says.
A basketball court now takes up the space that was once the lunchroom and school multipurpose room.
“You would stand in the line and go along, and they would feed you,” he says. The windows where the lunch staff served the students are still in place along the wall.
There’s a kitchenette in the family room, and indoor amenities include a gym, office, laundry room, and pantry.
The school was built in 1965, but closed to students because of low enrollment in 2012. It sat empty for a few years, with all of the education-related equipment—including the desks—still inside.
“You could have walked in and had school the next day,” Smith says.
Not content with coloring inside the lines, Smith and her husband, Rick, purchased the school at auction for less than $350,000 in October 2015. Smith says her husband teased her about buying the school, which she initially thought was a bad idea. Mother Nature intervened on the day of the auction.
“I walked outside and there was literally a rainbow over the top of the school, and he looked at me and said, ‘I’m going to buy that school.’ I looked up and said, ‘I can’t argue with that rainbow,’” Smith recalls.
The Smiths didn’t know what they were going to do with the building when they bought it. The idea to convert it into a house came a few days after the purchase, following a conversation with her two teenaged daughters.
“You have to have a game plan to approach my husband,” Smith says. “So we went to him, and he listened and said, ‘Are you serious?’”
She shared her ideas and plans for the conversion and was able to convince him.
Rick Smith also attended Perry Elementary, so living in the house is like going back in time for him.
“It’s pretty cool. He’ll tell the girls stories. He could tell you every teacher in every classroom,” Crystal Smith says, adding that many former students and teachers want to see the renovation.
While adding the living spaces, the Smiths left some of the school’s original features intact.
“We left the boys’ and girls’ restrooms. We remodeled them, but we left them as original as could be. With bathroom stalls, the whole school theme is still going on,” Smith says. They replaced the floor tiles and now have more than 6,000 pennies all facing heads-up on the floors.
There is also a classroom still set up, an office, and a nurse’s office, which makes sense because Crystal Smith is a nurse.
The garage space is impressive. There’s a five-bay garage now housing cars and collectables.
“That’s the man cave garage,” Smith explains.
The schoolhouse is located near the state line with West Virginia and close to Interstate Highway 79, which goes south to Morgantown and north in Pittsburgh.
“It’s really centrally located,” Smith says. “We’re about an hour and 10 minutes from Pittsburgh and about 10 minutes from the major hospitals and Morgantown.”
Though the Smiths have loved living in the school, their lifelong dream of living on a lake now holds more appeal.
“We thought about his pretty long and hard,” Smith says of their decision to sell their unique property. “I’m still a little hard-pressed to believe we’re moving, but we are.”