New Castle News

February 6, 2014

Board discusses options for three schools

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The New Castle school board is contemplating what to do with three elementary buildings when they close.

At its public work session Monday, solicitor Charles Sapienza told the board that should the district decide to the sell the school — John F. Kennedy, West Side and Thaddeus Stevens — it has three options under the Pennsylvania School Code.

The district can have a public auction, it can accept sealed bids or it can conduct a private sale, such as was done for the Ben Franklin school when it closed, Sapienza said.

To have a private sale, the district will need two appraisals to give prospective buyers a reasonable and fair value for the properties, and the district would have to go to court with plans to approve the sale, he explained.

Sapienza estimated a formal appraisal for each school could cost $3,000 to $5,000.

“We should look also at the value of rental of the buildings,” superintendent John J. Sarandrea suggested.

For the first two selling options, the district would be well served by obtaining “drive-by” appraisals to give a ballpark figure of what the buildings would be worth, Sapienza said. He said that one of the issues facing the district is what the highest and best use of the buildings would be with regard to their zoning districts.

“That process should probably get started now,” board member George Gabriel commented.

“We need to talk to appraisers and see what it costs,” Sarandrea said.

The district conducted a public hearing a month ago for the closing of the buildings but no one from the public attended.

Sarandrea said the board’s agenda in March will include a formal vote to close the three schools at the end of the 2013-14 year.

The first- and second-grade students attending those schools will go to the new Lockley Early Learning Center in the fall. Third-graders will go to George Washington Intermediate Elementary School, now housing grades four, five and six.

Eckles Co. architects attended Monday’s meeting to detail what last work needs to be done to finish the early learning center, which last month welcomed the kindergartners.

Those students had been attending kindergarten classes at St. Joseph School, which the district was leasing, until the building was ready. The district no longer is paying rent at St. Joseph, business manager Joseph Ambrosini said Monday.

He reported that an online public auction of the contents of the kindergarten supplies, furniture and equipment at St. Joseph yielded about $2,000.

The purpose of an online auction is to allow bidding from people who cannot physically attend a public auction on a certain date but still want to participate, he said.

“They bought everything,” Ambrosini said, adding the district had arranged for a Dumpster for the leftover items but canceled it.