A current El Paso elementary school will soon be re-purposed as a planetarium.
The Crosby Elementary School at 5411 Wren Avenue on the northeast side of the city is one of four schools that the El Paso Independent School District earlier this year decided to close.
The reason for that decision was the school’s steadily shrinking enrollment, which has seen it operating at a capacity rate of less than 65 percent.
But now, an entirely different use for the structure has been found with a vote by the EPISD Board of Trustees that will see the school serve as the new home to the Gene Roddenberry Planetarium.
The current Roddenberry planetarium, named in honor of El Paso native Gene Roddenberry, creator of the legendary 1960s Star Trek television series, is located at 6531 Boeing Drive.
That structure has also served as EPISD’s main administration offices.
But because that headquarters is being relocated to a downtown building that does not have the room needed for a planetarium, the idea of moving it into the Crosby building quickly gained currency.
The enabling Board of Regents vote comes after a partnership was joined between the district and the City of El Paso for the project.
In order to make the project a reality, that partnership has now secured around $1.1 million in funding from both a Community Development Block Grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as EPISD matching funds.
The funding will be used for roof upgrades to the Crosby building, as well as the carving out of planetarium space in the building, a process that will include the construction of a 40-foot dome.
Work on the Crosby school, which was originally built in the late 1950s, is expected to begin next year, with an anticipated early 2021 opening.
Originally opened in 1969, the Roddenberry planetarium has proven an enduring attraction for both local residents as well as visitors, offering regularly scheduled tours of the sky and deep space galaxies.
By Garry Boulard
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