The former West Primary School is on the market.
On Monday, the Blair Community Schools Board of Education unanimously approved the administration to move forward with a notice for the proposed sale of the former school building, located at 2232 Washington St., by sealed bid.
The minimum bid is $430,000, which is the current appraised value of the building.
“The board believes this is a benefit to the community by returning the property to the tax rolls,” Supt. Randy Gilson said in a press release. “It removes the district from responsibility for maintenance, insurance or liability repairs moving forward. The board carefully and thoughtfully reviewed all possibilities and determined this was the most prudent course to follow.”
A notice for the proposed sale will be published in the Washington County Pilot-Tribune and Enterprise and on the district's website for three weeks. Bids will be accepted until 2 p.m. Nov. 4.
The school board is expected to take action to accept a bid at its Nov. 11 meeting. Proceeds from the sale of West School will be placed in a fund and used for future expansion of academic programs.
West School had been used for the district administration offices since 2014. However, as part of the recent expenditure reduction plan, the offices were moved to Deerfield Primary School. The move saves the district $260,000 annually, Gilson said.
Prior to 2014, West School served as an elementary building. It opened in 1957.
Gilson cited declining enrollment as a reason to sell the building.
In 2008, BCS enrollment was 2,384 with an average class size of 183. This year's enrollment is 2,192 students. The loss of more than 190 students over the past 10 years has left extra space available at Deerfield and North primary schools.
But what about potential growth?
Gilson said it is predicted that Blair could increase its enrollment by 10 to 15 students per year. But even with that growth, BCS would not outgrow its existing classroom space at Deerfield, North, South and Arbor Park schools during the next 10 years.
“Over 10 years, BCS would save $2.6 million by selling West Primary and housing its district administrative offices at Deerfield,” Gilson said.
Leasing the building, Gilson said, would be cost prohibitive. The annual estimated cost to keep the building unoccupied is $66,000. In 2016, the district requested $1 million to update and improve the building. However, voters didn't approve that bond so improvements were deferred. A new owner will have to make those improvements.
Using the building as a preschool would also be challenging for the district. Building code would require each classroom to have bathrooms and new preschool playground equipment would need to be installed.
However, the district could partner and support a private preschool to provide an academic opportunity for all students who attend.
“BCS looks forward to supporting private day care programs in Blair to advance early education programs for all students,” Gilson said.
During the board meeting Monday night, Blair kindergarten teacher Ashley Miskowiec, who owns Education Explorers Learning Center in Arlington, expressed her desire to purchase the building.
Education Explorers opened in 2016 in the basement of the Arlington Community Church. Today, they serve about 50 children.
“We are passionate about coming together with the school system to better educate these children for when they come into the school system,” Miskowiec said. “Our offer doesn't just stand as a child care center, but as a partnership to advocate for families and children in our community.
Miskowiec indicated some families who use her center now are considering optioning their children to Arlington because of the convenience.
“Bringing a child care center here in Blair would allow those families to send their children to Blair to the school system that they're residing in,” she said. “It would be beneficial for the community.”
Nicole Sok, an Arlington Public Schools teacher who lives in Blair, has three children who attend Education Explorers.
“I love Arlington. It's a great school district. I work there, but I do want my kids to know this community and to go here in this community, but just without day care, it really is impossible,” she said.
Photographer Joe Burns contributed to this article.