Living in the old LePere School has its perks.
You can play games on a chalkboard in the living room. You can drink at a water fountain in the kitchen. You can skateboard in the rec room, which used to be a classroom.
A flagpole stands outside the front door. An exit sign, fire alarm and fire extinguisher are mounted by the back door, which leads to a fire escape.
"My daughter's room is in the old principal's office," said owner Chuck Wagner, 45, of rural Millstadt. "People have told me he used to look out that window and peck on it if he saw kids acting up on the playground."
LePere operated from 1952 to 1976 along Illinois 163. The two-story brick building later served other education-related purposes before sitting vacant.
Chuck bought the building and 2 acres three years ago. The second floor housed the office, girls' bathroom and two large classrooms.
Chuck renovated that floor into a residence with a 32-by-22-foot living room, a kitchen with maple cabinets and stainless-steel appliances; three bedrooms, two bathrooms, an office and a laundry.
"I've tried to keep the charm and not limit options for uses in the future," he said.
All the rooms have 10-foot-high ceilings, giant windows and original radiators, light fixtures and red and black linoleum-tile floors.
Chuck has decorated with an eclectic mix of artwork, collectibles and modern and vintage furniture, including a church pew.
"It's just got that cool factor," said his girlfriend, Peggy Manes, 43, an insurance broker in South St. Louis.
"It's not like a normal house. When people go there for the first time, it's very impressive. And it really explains (Chuck) -- his style, his sense of design. It's a good reflection of his personality."
Chuck is a freelance graphic artist. His son, Eli, 11, and daughter, Amelia, 13, live with him part time.
Chuck tore out several green chalkboards in the school, but kept the nicest two. The one in his office comes in handy for to-do lists and computer passwords.
The other chalkboard spans an entire wall in the living room. It's flanked by two bulletin boards, which are great for displaying photos.
"We always play games, like hangman and tic-tac-toe (on the chalkboard)," said Eli, a fifth-grader at Columbia Middle School. "And we draw pictures on it. My dad's an artist, and he's really good."
Eli's room follows a St. Louis Rams theme with a life-size cutout of Steve Jackson, who just signed with the Atlanta Falcons. (He's a little bummed.)
Eli also hangs out in the first-floor rec room, which has a ping-pong table, mini batting cage and exercise equipment.
The urinals in the adjoining boys' bathroom were a big hit at Chuck's Halloween party.
"Men and boys love the urinals," Peggy said. ""They're like, 'Oh my God.' That's a dream for them."
Chuck replaced the school's original crank windows, some glass and some Plexiglas. They weren't energy efficient, and he needed all the help he could get on heating bills.
The exterior already had been painted white when Chuck bought the building. He softened it with a cream color.
The playground equipment is gone, but the schoolyard still is surrounded by a chain-link fence. The parking lot doubles as a school-bus stop, a place where police cars sit to monitor traffic and extra parking for Bluff Grange.
"I've always wanted to be community friendly," Chuck said. "I've never wanted to take away what people have always come here for."
Chuck has agreed to give tours of the building on April 6 to former LePere School students who are gathering for a reunion.
He hasn't decided whether to hold onto the school in the long run. The 5,000-square-foot space is a little big for him when the kids aren't around.
Friends and family members have thrown out ideas for everything from a restaurant to a bed and breakfast, a winery to a day care. Eli wants to stay put.
"I really like it," he said. "There's a lot of room. It doesn't seem like a school. It's just like our house."