"The district owns 27 closed school buildings citywide and an assortment of other properties, many for years. Some are leased out to community groups, and four of the district's long-shuttered school buildings are in the process of being purchased, said property manager Ron English. (Here's a link to the Facilities Master Plan with all the properties the district has. See page 39-45 for the chart.)
But of the five buildings closed in 2006 and 2007, only one -- Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary in Madison Valley -- was declared "surplus," paving the way for it to be sold. On a tiny, 2-acre lot, it's too small to be used by the district in the future, English explained.
Usually, though, the district errs on the side of keeping its buildings, even if they're not immediately needed, he said. It still owns the former McDonald Elementary, a 1913 building near Green Lake that was closed in 1981 -- just in case.
"It's very difficult to predict whether you're going to need a building, and when," English said. "And it's very difficult to acquire new property sites. ... We'll keep anything if we think there's any significant likelihood of it being needed in the future."I've said this before but keeping this many properties is not what most districts do. It takes time to oversee these things and someone who knows what they are doing (infer what you will into the last part of that statement).
I get that we might need some properties but I'd keep the ones in the best shape and most central locations.
Some good points are raised like:
"Last year, parents urged the district to reopen the Sand Point Elementary building to ease overcrowding in Northeast Seattle schools. What seemed like a simple enough solution, though, was impossible, district officials said; it would cost an estimated $6.8 million and take two to three years to renovate the building and bring it up to current code.
Parent and education blogger Charlie Mas doesn't buy it. "It didn't take them three years to rebuild Garfield (High School), and it's not even going to take them three years to build a new Denny (Middle School), from the ground up," he said.
"If you're never going to reopen a school ... why keep them?"
Sand Point is leased out to North Seattle Community College through June 2009, English said, and money also is a major factor.
Sand Point, which is more than 50 years old, would need significant repairs and updates, and a certificate of occupancy.
"You wouldn't want to put the kids in the building just to get them into the building, you'd want to make it the right building, with the right features that a modern elementary school has," he said."Well, some parents in overcrowded NE elementaries might disagree. Give them a safe building and to heck with amenities.
Also, I have a document "Property Management Plan: Analysis of Status of Closed School Sites" dated March 16, 2007 (Draft) that I thought was part of the FMP but I cannot find at the FMP website.
Here's some interesting info from the report:
"However, McDonald may be needed as a permanent site for the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center." Interesting. I never heard this before ever and naturally there was no discussion of it during this last closure process.
"Sand Point should be kept as a future interim site. In addition, with substantial excess capacity in the central area of the city, possible future closure of a school in that area could create an interim site, potentially freeing up Sand Point or Cedar Park for surplus status or to meet any unexpected growth. " (italics mine). So the NE had unexpected growth, they need to fill it and yet, despite that, Sand Point was said to be unavailable for use.
Speaking of the Central area, "When a school becomes available, it should be considered as an emergency site, potentially freeing up McDonald for surplus status." So that may mean that TT Minor becomes their "emergency site" and they may lease or sell McDonald.
SW - "Closed schools in the SW area (Fairmount Park, Hughes and Fauntleroy) are not needed to meet future enrollment and can be surplused. "
Heads up for BEX IV candidates - "Five currently open schools are assumed to be renovated before 2030 and expanded to 535 seats each." (The preferred size for elementaries - did you know this?). They are: Bagley, North Beach, Olympic Hills, Rogers and View Ridge. I'm a little mystified to not see Laurelhurst or McGilvra on this list. I know; 2030 seems a long time off but the sentence says "assumed to be renovated" and that means done by 2030.
"Security was beefed up at vacant schools after thieves stripped out copper wiring and caused substantial damage to Viewlands Elementary in Northeast Seattle. And last year, the district spent about $100,000 to maintain the shuttered schools, even hiring a full-time custodian to look after them.
"He's out working with these buildings to clear up graffiti if there is any, to keep the lawn reasonably mowed and the plants trimmed, so the place doesn't take on a rundown condition," English said.
Living near Nova Alternative High School and T.T. Minor Elementary, Mooney worries about crime escalating among Central District teens, property values decreasing and the possibility the historic Mann building could be left empty.
"If you drive down Cherry from 23rd to MLK, there's already four vacant buildings now in four blocks," she said. "I don't want to see that happen to another building in my local community."
Ah yes, blight. We know about that by Roosevelt (but it's not the district's fault at all).