The USD 251 Board of Education approved a motion Wednesday evening to list the Reading Elementary School building with a realtor for 90 days.
The building will be offered up for $20,000.
Superintendent Mike Mathes said the recommendation came after discussions with Board Member David Goldsmith, who is a realtor.
“The best recommendation that we can make is to list the Reading building for sale for 90 days at $20,000,” Mathes said. “After 90 days, if there is no action, we will put it up for auction.”
Board members were concerned about how much money would be netted by listing the building for sale and letting it sit for another three months. Mathes said the district was spending roughly $5,000 per month to keep the building without operating it as a school.
Board member Tim Burton said he did not see the benefit of making $5,000 on the sale, assuming the building didn’t sell right away, but Tammi Reed said the board was not doing itself any favors by sitting on the building, either.
Mary Ann Newton, a City of Reading council member, then asked to speak. She said she had previously had conversations with Mathes about the building and the benefits of listing it with a realtor versus putting it up for auction. The concern, she said, was seeing an absentee landowner take over the building.
“We talked about trying to list it versus putting it up for auction so we could somewhat control, possibly, who purchases the building,” Newton said. “I would ask the board to consider that. I’ve seen some other schools that have been purchased from people in California and they’re a mess. The City of Reading — if the city didn’t have their community building and city hall after the tornado — I’m pretty sure we would have jumped on the building. We just can’t afford both. I would ask you guys to think about listing it for a little bit just so maybe someone local would be interested.”
Following Newton’s comments, Board Member Wendy Linsey offered a motion to list the building per Mathes’ recommendation. The motion was approved 6-0, with Board Member Mitchell Maxfield not present.
The listing will not include the sign outside of the building or memorabilia inside of the building. Those items would be gifted to the City of Reading.
“We want (the city) to have whatever they want,” Mathes said of the items inside of the building.
Mathes said the building should be on the market by the end of the week and anyone interested in purchasing the building should start checking local real estate listings.
The board also heard a presentation from NLC Elementary third-graders and teacher Daniel Baldwin regarding a research project the class did on solar panels. The project began when the class read a book on solar energy and wondered why their school didn’t have solar panels. The class then decided to try and persuade the school board to add solar panels to the school because they would be cost effective and would pay for themselves with energy savings.
“This was a big deal for our students, because not only were they excited about saving our district money, they were thinking we could use the field next door and sell power back to the electric company,” Baldwin said.
The class looked into questions such as whether or not the school would get a tax break, what kind of solar panels would be the best and how the panels connect to electricity. They did research online and by calling local companies that sell and install solar panels.
Through their research, the class discovered that the goal for solar panels is to replace up to 75 percent of the electricity used at the building. They requested the monthly bill from NLC Elementary and then calculated what 75 percent savings would look like — roughly $2,000 per month in potential savings.
Baldwin asked the board if they would be willing to look into solar power more as a real possibility for the schools. The board gave Baldwin and his class permission to do more research.
Jacob Lang, an industrial arts teacher at Northern Heights High School, then updated the board on the high school’s farm program.
Lang said that, so far, about $12,000 had been spent on the program between livestock purchases, materials and pen construction. There is about $11,000 left in available cash.
The program is raising cattle and chickens with the ultimate goal of providing meat for the NHHS cafeteria. The meat would need to be processed at specific locations to meet federal and state regulations. Lang said the program was also nominated for a $25,000 Monsanto grant that would enable them to build a greenhouse.
“Once we get everything wrapped up for this year, the kids are going to evaluate the program and see what we need to change, what we need to improve,” Lang said.
The board also approved fees for the 2019-20 school, as well as handbooks for NHHS, NLC, classified and transportation staff. One notable change for the NHHS handbook is a financial literacy course will now be a graduation requirement beginning with the incoming sophomore class.
The board also:
Approved a $58,761 bid from Modern Air for a boiler at NLC Elementary
Approved the purchase of math textbooks for a total of $49,470.24
Approved the installation of a new alarm system for NLC Elementary in the amount of $15,074
The board will next meet at noon April 23 to approve bids for safety and security work on district buildings.