Bluff Town may partner with Utah Diné Bikeyah to purchase old school

The town of Bluff is considering taking on a partner to help purchase the Old Bluff Elementary School. The Bluff Town Council is discussing the approval of an acquisition and development agreement between the Town of Bluff and Utah Diné Bikeyah.

A public hearing on the matter will be held on September 30 in Bluff. If approved, the nonprofit and the town would jointly undertake the acquisition and redevelopment of the old elementary school building.

The older building in Bluff became available when the San Juan School District completed its work on the newest school in the district in the fall of 2020.

The new elementary school, on the west side of Bluff, left an empty building on four acres of land located on the east side of town.

The San Juan School District accepted an offer of $307,500 from the town of Bluff to purchase the old Bluff Elementary School at their June 2021 meeting. 

At their September 14 meeting, Mayor Ann Leppanen reports that the Utah Diné Bikeyah board approved going forward with the purchase agreement. A draft of the ten-page agreement, including a proposed map of how the school would be divided, is available online at

Utah Diné Bikeyah is a Native American-led nonprofit organization that was created in 2010 to advocate for public lands. It was involved in the effort to create Bears Ears National Monument. The group sponsors a variety of projects and initiatives throughout the area.

In the agreement, Utah Diné Bikeyah expressed a desire to acquire the property for a future headquarters for its organization, with the intent to use the center for non-profit activities including Native American arts and cultural programs and other community services. The town says that they would use their portions of the building as a town hall and community center.

Proposed shared common portions of the building and grounds would exist, including parking, the kitchen, and a multi-purpose room. The ten-page draft agreement includes further details about conveyance, how rooms would be divided, redevelopment procedures, and other items.

At their September 14 meeting, Bluff town council member Jim Sayers called the town’s partnership with the nonprofit innovative.

“It bodes well for the future if we can pull this off. It’s a challenging effort but obviously, I think that the school is worth working for,” said Sayers.

“We need a place. We need a center – in my view, of course. Not everyone agrees with me, but this is a good, healthy way to go with this partnership.”

The public hearing for the agreement will be held on Thursday, September 30 at 6 p.m. at the Bluff Community Center. A vote on whether to approve the agreement could come at the next town council meeting on October 5.

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