This could have been a story about how the Minneapolis School District was prevented from demolishing one of its shuttered schools and wound up better than a million dollars richer.
Instead, the school board this week got a $1.175 million offer for Shingle Creek school, and said no thanks.
That leaves the district with a school at 5034 Oliver Av. N. that it doesn’t want, and would have to pay an estimated $280,000 to demolish.
What was the board thinking when it turned down the offer on a lopsided vote?
Board member Kim Ellison said she was concerned that the staff-recommended sale to Charter School Property Solutions could open the door to a poor-quality charter school moving in. The Nevada-based developer acts as the middleman for charter or private schools seeking a facility to buy or build, according to its web site.
“I need to have a high-performing school,” Ellison said afterward. She said she’s also working with the neighborhood group to set up a meeting, as it requested. That part of the normal process got skipped because the developer put a deadline of last Tuesday’s meeting on its offer. Normally, the board receives a recommendation at one meeting and votes at the next.
The neighborhood group of the same name has opposed demolition of the school. Last year, the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission voted to deny a demolition permit for the school. That was overturned in a district appeal to the City Council, but that was stayed for six months during which the district was to market the school. That’s what produced the offer.
The one-story school is 55 years old, and is without ductwork that was removed along with asbestos after the school closed in 2007. It’s the sole example in the Mill City of a 1950s design concept in which clusters of classrooms were linked by enclosed walkways. It’s also the city’s first example of a school location chosen collaboratively with park officials to take advantage of a nearby park. The school also played a role in desegregating schools in the late 1960s, when it received the largest shifts of black students.
The city marketed the building without success several years ago. “I was surprised to see an offer emerged at that price,” Mark Bollinger, the district’s chief administrative officer, said. But the spurned buyer put a deadline on its offer because of the lead time needed to move a school there by the time school starts. Larry Rieder, its president, predicted in an e-mail that the school will remain empty for another year.
“No school is going to buy the property in mid-year. We like the property and may take another run at it next year,” he wrote. That assumes that it’s still standing, of course.