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Elyria Schools to have open houses at soon-to-be-closed sites

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ELYRIA — Elyria Schools may decide to sell or exchange soon-to-be-old buildings, freeing up demolition costs and opening up use of the buildings.

The district will have six business open houses in the next few weeks to determine whether the district will demolish or sell some of its buildings.

Crestwood, Oakwood, Prospect, Windsor and Franklin elementary schools, plus Northwood Middle School, will be shown as part of a fact-finding mission by the Board of Education.

At a previous meeting, the board voted to shift the money earmarked for demolition of seven buildings to the new buildings’ budgets.

Paul Rigda, a former Elyria superintendent and current board liaison for the facilities project, said Elyria officials have expressed interest in some of the properties and may come out to some of the open houses. He said the city is looking at possible community development on the land.

Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda said the city, along with the Community Improvement Corporation, has had conversations with the district about what can be done to free up demolition costs.

If the district chooses to sell any buildings, it must first offer them to a charter or STEM school, which is required by state law. The charter schools have to be established and operating in the district.

The other option is to do a land exchange with the city of Elyria. The district would not be required to offer it to a charter school first if it did a land exchange because it wouldn’t be selling anything.

“The city and the CIC are very interested in improving and protecting the community,” Brinda said.

She said the district must first go through all the right steps and follow legal requirements but that the city is “on standby” to help. She said the city doesn’t want to put an undue burden on the CIC, but conversations are being had about some of the buildings.

The CIC is a nonprofit organization that serves as a go-between for the city and developers. It is the mechanism that allows the city to assemble properties that can be made available to corporations and businesses.

Two schools, Crestwood and Franklin, will have open houses, but the demolition dollars have not been removed from them yet. Rigda said school officials are unsure whether there will be interest in selling or exchanging those buildings.

Once the board votes to remove demolition dollars from a building and the state approves it, the state will not pay the two-thirds cost of the demolition and pulls away responsibility for the buildings.

Crestwood cannot be exchanged with the city because the school actually sits in Elyria Township, which the district can’t legally do an exchange with.

Elyria West High School and McKinley Elementary School will not have open houses, although the demolition dollars were removed from the buildings. Rigda said the district is holding those buildings back for now.

The school administration runs out of Elyria West, and the fields on the property are home base for the district’s softball program.

McKinley sits next to University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center, and the hospital has used the school grounds as a landing space for the emergency helicopter when it cannot land on the hospital’s roof.

Rigda said the district wants to continue to be a help to the hospital and community, so University Hospitals may be interested in the land.

Most of the old buildings sit on a lot acreage, which Rigda said is rare in an urban school district. The amount of land adds to the allure of the properties, and he said it’s not often the city gets an opportunity like that.

The school board wants to do well with public buildings, follow the law and give the city an opportunity to develop if it wants to, Rigda said.

Selling the buildings and removing the demolitions costs would free more than $3 million toward the construction of the five new school buildings.

Rigda said the budget has been challenging, since the cost of labor and materials began to skyrocket as supply and demand got higher. Freeing the extra money could be helpful for construction.

Rigda praised the Board of Education for its business mindset and said its members are being smart to explore their options and decide on what is the best thing to do.

The open houses are happening now because Windsor, Northwood and Franklin will be empty next year as the new schools open.

They will be open to those interested in purchasing the buildings or land. Before the buildings close, each will have an open house for people who want to visit the building one last time.

All the open houses will be 9 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. on the following dates:

  •  Wednesday: Crestwood
  •  Thursday: Oakwood
  •  Aug. 15: Prospect
  •  Aug. 19: Windsor
  •  Aug. 20: Northwood
  •  Aug. 21: Franklin.
Contact Laina Yost at 329-7121 or lyost@chroniclet.com.


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