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Bible college idea taking shape for old SHS; public talk Monday

May 13, 2016 By Christina George, Staff Writer

Later this year, Shoshoni students and staff will abandon the current Shoshoni school building and move into a new one north of their old campus.

The 90,000-square-foot school on West Third Street, which consists of the original 1937 building and multiple additions, is no longer deemed suitable for education. But Fremont County School District 24 officials are hoping to bypass demolishing the building, and instead want to offload it to a new owner.

CJ Vandermuelen is among the interested potential buyers of the property. The Missouri Valley Church pastor said the Shoshoni school site is ideal for a bible college he wants to found in the area.

Vandermuelen called it "divine inspiration."

"I have been thinking about it for a long time. There's really a need for a good, fundamental school around here," he said.

Background

Vandermuelen first pitched the idea to School District 24 Board of Trustees last November. At the time, trustees asked for more in-formation before they would entertain his proposal.

Vandermuelen said he has now turned in a more detailed bid proposal, which was due to the school district May 2. He's also scheduled to address the board at its May 16 meeting.

According to a public notice published April 8 in The Ranger, the district was receiving sealed proposals for the sale of several parcels of existing property, including the administration and industrial arts shop buildings adjacent to the main school building, parking lots, and the entire site of the old K-12 building.

A public meeting regarding disposition of the property is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. May 16, ahead of the regular school board meeting at 5:30 p.m.

Curriculum

Vandermuelen said he has spent the last eight months crafting his plan. He said he has a lot of support from others, but many say they want to see if he gets the building before fully committing.

"We are working on the curriculum and course development now. We are getting the ball rolling," he said. "The really cool thing about what we want to do is we are going to have a trade school component to it."

He said every student would be required to take "life skills classes" and learn basic trades like plumbing, electrical system work, and automotive repair.

"They should know how to change the oil in their own car," Vandermuelen said.

There will also be a "community involvement component."

Initially, Vandermuelen imagined holding night classes. Now, he says he's worked out a 20-year plan where students will eventually be able to earn a doctorate's degree from the school.

The school would be a ministry of his church, Vandermuelen said, which he described as a Christian, local New Testament church.

Vandermuelen himself

Vandermuelen is a saddle maker by profession and lives in the Gas Hills area. His family's roots are deep in Shoshoni, stretching back five generations. Vandermuelen grew up in town, and was a member of Shoshoni High School's Class of 1992.

He joined the Navy and left before graduation, but said he received his diploma in the mail.

Vandermuelen said he became interested in preaching in 1999. He earned a bachelor's degree in religious education and said he's two papers away from a master's degree in theology. He's been the pastor at Missouri Valley Church for five years.

When Vandermuelen learned about a new school being built in Shoshoni, he said he met with school superintendent Bruce Thoren about his idea.

Residents wanted to save the old building, he added, saying that many thought a bible college was a great idea.

"It would be something that would bring people into town that wouldn't rely on the oil field," Vandermuelen said. "It would be something steady."

He predicts there will be more than 50 staff and 400 students at the college in 20 years, essentially doubling Shoshoni's population.

"It would be good for the local economy and demographic and for everyone all the way around," he said.

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