Two topics that recently attracted much attention over the last few weeks were addressed by the Centennial School Board Monday night.
A high turnout of parents watched as the school directors unanimously approved both the sale agreement of the Leary, Longstreth and Stackpole properties to County Builders and the tabling of the altered elementary bell schedule while administration re-analyzed the situation.
The sale of the three buildings now moves into a 60-day due diligence phase, followed by a 30-day waiting period until the closing date. County Builders is purchasing the properties for a grand total of $1.33 million ($480,000 for Stackpole, $450,000 for Leary and Longstreth).
Centennial Superintendent Dr. Jenny Cressman addressed many of the concerns voiced by district residents through e-mails and on Patch about the sale price. She echoed points she originally made in a blog post on the Centennial website, including:
- The money reflects the state of the current reale state market.
- To keep the properties under the district's care while waiting for a better offer would require the district to pay for their upkeep, including securing the sites from vandals and loiterers, mowing the lawns, regular inspections for water damage, etc., at an estimated cost of $50,000 per building.
- The properties are being sold "as is, where is," meaning the County Builders will be responsible for the demolition of the buildings, including asbestos abatement.
- Other bid offers that were higher had too many contingencies that risked the possibility of the potential buyer backing out and placing the district back at square one with empty buildings to manage.
- Pending legislation that would make it easier for a charter school to take over the buildings with little or no financial restitution to the district.
"This has been discussed extensively at our committee meetings," said Dr. Cressman. "This is not a decision made lightly. We have received 30 to 40 e-mails on this, and we do hear you."
The sale of the buildings is a part of the overall school consolidation plan. Students from Leary have been moved to Willow Dale, Stackpole students will join Davis students at the new Region 1 school and Longstreth students will move to McDonald Elementary in September. The Longstreth and McDonald students will then move to the new Region 2 school in March 2013.
The closing of the neighborhood schools means that there will be fewer students walking to school, requiring a new busing plan by the transportation department.
Director Wayne Robinson presented a to the elementary committee that he said would ensure that students are picked up in a timely manner. As configured, the schedule would look like the following:
- will begin classes at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3:15 p.m.
- Davis Elementary and will begin at 9:00 a.m. and dismiss at 3:45 p.m.
The later end times elicited a strong reaction from parents who feared that their children would have less time for extra-curricular activities.
"I have received an unbelievable amont of feedback, mostly from the parents at Willow Dale," said school board member Jane Schrader Lynch, who also chairs the education committee. "They do not want this. It changes their whole life."
School Director Michael Hartline moved to table the issue and allow administration an opportunity to re-analyze the schedule, a motion that was unanimously approved. The operations committee will take a look at any new alterations at its May 7 meeting.
It was made clear that in order for all of the schools to dismiss at the same time, the district would need to purchase 10 to 12 additional buses, costing approximately $1.2 million, plus the cost of hiring more drivers. If that is the route the district chooses, the finance committee will also need to review the matter at its May 21 meeting.
Robinson also mentioned that altering the middle school and high school schedules will also have to be considered in order to keep the elementary dismissal times earlier.