The former West School will have a new owner.
The Blair Community Schools Board of Education unanimously voted to accept the high bid of $522,322.50 from Jane Bouwman, owner of Little Blossoms Child Care and Preschool, during its regular meeting Monday.
In her letter to the board, Bouwman said she is “looking to expand her current program to alleviate the wait list and satisfy the need for more child care in the community.”
The board received one other bid from Ashley Miskowiec, owner of Education Explorers Learning Center in Arlington for $451,000.
Miskowiec, who also teaches kindergarten at Deerfield Primary School, had also planned to use the property for a child care center.
“I think it's fantastic that we had two bids come in both for the same use,” board president Kari Loseke said. “We've seen tonight and we've seen last month that there really does seem to be a need for child care in Blair. I think it's an ideal use for the building and an ideal use for the community.”
Board member Laura Ronning said it was a hard decision, but as board members they have an obligation to accept the highest bid.
“I think the information we received from the other bidder indicates that bidder would have made equally good use of the facility and is clearly passionate about providing good quality care for preschool-aged children,” she said. “Sometimes decisions are made to be the best steward possible with the resources that we have, which would require us to accept the highest bid.”
“We don't often have a lot of people who come in and advocate for a business. We had that last month, we've had it through email. It is absolutely something that we consider,” she said. “In some instances, if the bids were closer, that would maybe have a little bearing. But I think we also have another established program that's respected in the community and the bid was favorable for the district, favorable for the taxpayer and we appreciate that also.”
Supt. Randy Gilson said the school district will look to partner with Bouwman to expand high quality early child care services.
“What I'm most excited about is that there has been a shortage of not just child care, but we're limited to what we can offer for preschool,” he said. “The opportunities we can give kids birth to 5 gives them an incredible leg up and incredible education advantage.”
Gilson said the proceeds from the sale will be placed in a fund and used for the future expansion of academic programs. One example, he said, is the district is partnering with Metropolitan Community College to add welding, manufacturing and nursing career academies.
“If these programs grow, future expansion might be necessary in the industrial arts/shop areas at the high school,” he said. “This money could be used for expanding or updating facilities to support future academic programs.”
Prior to the vote, Loseke said she was excited for the future of the former school building, which had been used for the district administration offices since 2014.
“This is something we've been talking about for years for West school. Some of us may be a little emotional about that,” she said. “I think it's really exciting to think about kids staying in that building.”