OFFICIALS WARY OF SELLING TO COMPETITORS

Charter schools offer millions for closed TUSD buildings

2011-06-30T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T08:36:31Z Charter schools offer millions for closed TUSD buildingsAlexis Huicochea Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 30, 2011 12:00 am  • 

A handful of charter schools have gotten in line offering millions of dollars to take over eight closed TUSD school sites.

More than three dozen proposals were submitted to buy or lease school sites the Tucson Unified School District closed last year as a cost-saving measure, but it's unclear how much consideration the district's Governing Board will give to the competitor schools.

There are other types of proposals on the table that include housing, church and community center projects.

One developer dubbed SchoolHouse Ventures submitted proposals for all eight of the campuses. Its idea is to put homes on the playgrounds and use the existing facilities for things like senior housing, churches, day care, clinics, parks and adult education services.

Though the purchase prices for each site vary, SchoolHouse is offering more than $9.2 million for all eight campuses.

Basis, Sonoran Science Academy and La Paloma Academy charter schools are interested in five of the former campuses. If the board approved the sale of each one, it would bring in a total of $12.3 million.

Despite the high offers, TUSD Governing Board Clerk Judy Burns isn't too keen on the idea of negotiating with charter schools.

"Personally, my feeling is if we couldn't sustain a school there, we shouldn't give someone else the opportunity to do so," Burns said. "For me, the focus is what would be to the liking of the neighborhood - what would fit with the community? Any monetary gain would be welcome, but that's not the primary reason."

TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone also is hesitant to sell property to a charter school.

"When you consider selling to an organization that may be in competition with you, that requires careful consideration because you lose that asset, and sometimes a fast dollar may not be the best investment," Pedicone said. "We have to balance the value to the district and the value to the community."

The fact that charter schools feel they could be successful in locations where TUSD wasn't is a reason to examine the educational programs offered and what would appeal to parents, Pedicone said.

Governing Board President Mark Stegeman shares similar concerns, but he said that revenue for the district has to be taken into consideration.

Stegeman said he wouldn't rule out offers by charter schools - especially if the purchase offers could be converted into leases - but said he'd likely look at other offers first.

He feels a school like Basis is more likely to draw students away from other charter schools than from TUSD.

Like Pedicone, Stegeman prefers lease options primarily because property values have dipped so low and the district may be able to sell the sites for more years down the road.

The elementary schools - Jefferson Park, Duffy, Reynolds, Van Horne, Wrightstown, Fort Lowell, Rogers and Roberts - have been vacant for months and have been vandalized.

Jefferson Park was the most sought-after property, closely followed by Duffy.

Each proposal will be evaluated on four criteria: if it supports TUSD's educational mission; if it promotes community well-being; if it facilitates rapid repurposing to eliminate current TUSD operating costs of the site; and if it maximizes long-term revenue to TUSD.

A series of community meetings are being held, and draft recommendations with feedback from the meetings will be presented to the Governing Board on July 26.

Anne E. Rogers Elementary SCHOOL

James D. Van Horne Elementary School

Clara Fish Roberts Elementary School

Proposal: Offering to buy the site for $4 million, the Sonoran Science Academy-Broadway wants to use it to serve the charter school's sixth- through eighth-graders.

Proposal: Offering to buy the site for $3 million, the Sonoran Science Academy-Tucson would use it to serve grades sixth through eight, but it would later expand.

Proposal: Seeking a five-year lease, Pima Community College would relocate its Adult Education program and Public Safety and Emergency Services Institute.

proposals FOR CLOSED SCHOOLS

Duffy Elementary School, 5145 E. Fifth St.

• Several nonprofit organizations want to share the building and lease it for $1 a year. They are the Educational Enrichment Foundation, Literacy Volunteers of Tucson, Voices for Education, Literacy for Life Coalition, Nine Queens, Stories That Soar, Reading Seed, and Reach Out and Read.

• TUSD's Exceptional Education Department wants to relocate support services that are operating out of two other facilities there. There would be no lease or sale.

• Basis School Inc. is offering to buy the property for $1.6 million to use it as a public charter school for grades five through 12.

• Faith Community Eastside Church is offering $400,000 to use it as a primary place of worship and to provide community services.

• Robert C. Maki, a developer, and Stuart Wolff, a property manager, are offering $1.3 million to build apartments.

• TUSD's Mary Meredith K-12 School, which is nearby, wants a portion of the grounds. There would be no sale or lease.

Fort Lowell Elementary School, 5151 E. Pima St.

• Basis School Inc. is offering to buy the property for $1.6 million to use it as a public charter school for grades five through 12.

Jefferson Park Elementary School, 1701 E. Seneca St.

• The International School of Tucson, a tuition-based independent school, wants a 10-year lease. For the first two years, IST would pay $50,000 a year. For years three and four the annual lease amount would be $70,000. The final six years of the contract would have an annual lease payment of $100,000.

• TUSD's Government Programs and Community Outreach Department wants to place three programs there, although it would consider Duffy or Fort Lowell. There would be no sale or lease.

• Tucson Handweavers and Spinners Guild would like to lease the school to create a multiuse neighborhood community center. The lease amount was not available.

• The Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association offered $1 to buy or a $1 yearly lease. It would like to open a citywide neighborhood education and resource center to benefit historic neighborhoods in central Tucson. It would share the facility with nonprofit organizations.

• Literacy Volunteers of Tucson, Literacy for Life Coalition, Stories That Soar, Reading Seed, and Reach Out and Read submitted a proposal similar to the one presented for Duffy.

• Seeds Community Center, which is part of Second Mile Church, wants a $1-a-year lease for a community center that focuses on education, family life skills, renewable energy and the arts.

• Sangha Sunrise submitted a proposal to create an adult co-housing community. It is seeking a 99-year lease at $33,000 a year.

• The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Arizona would like to lease a portion of the building for $44,800 a year. The institute provides educational and community offerings to people over 50 years old.

• Chabad of Tucson is looking for a five-year lease with the option to buy for $1.2 million. Chabad of Tucson would create an early-childhood center.

• Fenton Investment Co. would like to redevelop the school into loft-style apartments. The purchase price would be based on an appraisal.

• Access Tucson offered to pay market rate to sublease 6,000 square feet for an Arizona Community Media Center - a resource for media literacy, media education, access and distribution.

Reynolds Elementary School, 7450 E. Stella Road

• Rincon Baptist Church would like to move its preschool and establish an elementary school. It's not clear if the church wants to buy or lease.

• University of Arizona South would like to lease a portion of the building to offer classes. The lease amount was not available.

• Ebenezer All Nations Seventh-day Adventist Co. is looking to lease Reynolds, Van Horne or Wrightstown for five years with an option to buy at a negotiated market rate. It would offer church services, community health improvement programs, day care, a community fitness center and a medical clinic.

• La Paloma Academy charter school offered to buy for $2.1 million to relocate its Lakeside Campus.

Roberts Elementary School, 4355 E. Calle Aurora.

• Pima Community College would like to relocate its Adult Education program and Public Safety and Emergency Services Institute to Roberts. It is seeking a five-year lease with an option to renew. The lease amount was not available.

Rogers Elementary School, 6000 E. 14th St.

• Sonoran Science Academy-Broadway wants to buy it for $4 million. It would be used to serve the charter school's sixth- through eighth-graders.

Van Horne Elementary School, 7550 E. Pima St.

• Sonoran Science Academy-Tucson offered to buy it for $3 million. Initially the school would serve grades six through eight, but it would later expand to serve students through 12th grade.

• Dr. Patricia Anthony proposed a lease for $1,700 a month to establish an institute for medical education that would offer a degree in premedical science. She has more than 15 years' experience in basic medicine, having taught at the UA, Pima, New York Medical College and other medical schools. She currently offers medical education online. She also submitted a proposal for Wrightstown - her first choice.

Wrightstown Elementary School, 8950 E. Wrightstown Road

• Sabino Road Baptist Church would like to buy it for $225,000 to build a new church.

All sites

• SchoolHouse Ventures LLC submitted proposals for all sites to build housing on the playgrounds and install senior housing, churches, day-care centers, clinics, parks and adult education services in and around existing structures.

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at ahuicochea@azstarnet.com or 573-4175.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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