ECASD approves option to purchase Epiphany building

By: Jenny You Email
By: Jenny You Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Nearly two years after a referendum was turned down, the Eau Claire School District is once again exploring the purchase of a former school building. The school board has agreed to approve a Real Estate Option Agreement with Epiphany Lutheran Church.

It's all in order to solve an overcrowding issue with the district's early learning programs.

But there are major differences between the factors in 2011 and now.

The school board says in 2011, Epiphany Lutheran was selling its building plus 12 acres of land for a selling price of $3.9 million.

Now, the school board says representatives of Epiphany have asked them to reconsider purchasing or leasing the school at a reduced price of $2.85 million with 16 acres of land.

The school board says it's approved an "option" to purchase for the church's former school building. That means Epiphany will not sell the building to another buyer until ECASD has an opportunity to discuss financing options, merits of purchase, etc. before making a final board decision.

The school board says it's early learning programs including, 4-year-old kindergarten, Headstart and Early Childhood Special Ed is projected to increase at a faster rate than predicted.

Vice President Ken Faanes says already since the referendum, the student population has gone up by more than 200 students, a majority in the early childhood and elementary levels.

Right now, Faanes says the early childhood programs hold classes at North High School, Locust Lane, Longfellow and Chippewa Valley Montessori.

The building, he says, would centralize the location, giving kids as well as special education teachers, educators and parents consistency in where they are.

Back in February, former superintendent Ron Heilman said the Epiphany site would save nearly $200,000 a year in transportation costs.

The district currently owns Little Red, which is located towards the south side of Eau Claire. The school board says the location means more spending on transportation costs.

The school board says the Epiphany buy is a rare opportunity and wants to consider the option and sees it as their due diligence responsibility.

The school board says it is directing administration to bring to the board, in open session, a financial analysis of the savings/costs associated with the purchase of Epiphany's building as a functional ECASD facility. It's also asking administration to give the board financing options for the $2.85 million, including but not limited to another referendum.

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