School district puts lease of Nevada City Elementary out to bid
January 17, 2018
Nevada City School District trustees made it official Tuesday night, approving a resolution to put the potential lease of Nevada City Elementary School out to bid.
The turnaround is going to be at lightning speed — the board is scheduled to evaluate any bids that come in at its next meeting, on Feb. 13.
The school district closed the elementary school in 2010 and the Art Deco building has been leased by Yuba River Charter School for the last six years. But that lease runs out in June, when the charter school will relocate to its new site on Ridge Road.
The news of the impending vacancy percolated rapidly through the community in late December, with neighborhood group Friends of NCE calling for more transparency and more public input. An ad hoc committee had been meeting to explore options since last spring, but those meetings had been closed to the public.
“We have made it clear we value the property as a school. We value its historical place in the community and we want to keep it a school.”
— District Superintendent Trisha Dellis
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On Tuesday, dozens came out in force to the board meeting to express their support for keeping the site a school; many cited a lease with Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning as their top choice. According to Friends of NCE member Terri Anderson, the turnout included students from the most recent 70 years, past teachers, bus drivers, neighbors and local leaders.
"We have made it clear we value the property as a school," said District Superintendent Trisha Dellis. "We value its historical place in the community and we want to keep it a school."
But, she cautioned, the district does need to consider all its options, in case no schools bid on the lease. And she made it clear that reopening a school is not one of the options that the district will consider.
"We have been asked to reopen a school or open a charter," she said. "Believe me, I would love to do that. … It's an exciting thing to do, but the financial situation in the district does not allow us to do that at this time."
Dellis acknowledged the decision by the district to close the school was devastating and gut-wrenching. But she expressed optimism that Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning has expressed an interest in the lease.
The academy, currently housed at the Silver Springs High School campus in Grass Valley, has been negotiating with Nevada Joint Union High School District for a long-term lease of its McCourtney Road property. Academy principal Erica Crane did not return several calls for comment.
According to Dellis, Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning has a Feb. 15 deadline in its negotiations with the high school district — and that is one reason the elementary school district has compressed its own timeline.
"This gives us less than a month," she said.
Financial constraints might torpedo deal
Dellis noted changes to the state District of Choice program, which allowed a student living in one school district to transfer to a District of Choice, resulted in a $250,000 hit to the school district's budget this year.
In its lease resolution, the district set the minimum bid for the property at a monthly lease of $14,575. Dellis said that was the rate the district had been charging Yuba River Charter School, and they were using that rate at the market rate value of the property — which is an education code requirement.
The request for bids will be advertised and posted and interested parties can bid on the lease.
"We'll see what we come up with," she said. "By law, we are required to take the high bid."
Laurie Oberholtzer, a steering committee member of Friends of NCE, expressed concern about the high minimum bid, telling the board she does not think that would be a current market rate.
"We hope this is the beginning of ensuring that NCE remains a local public school for five more years — and forever," she said.
Trustee Joshua Pack reiterated that the bottom line would be the financial health of the school district, adding, "If it's SAEL, great. … We'll keep our fingers crossed."
Pack said after the board meeting he could not predict what kind of bid the academy might submit.
"Our priority first and foremost (for the site) is a school," he said. "Ultimately we're hopeful we can find someone, whether it's SAEL or someone else."
If the academy's potential bid does not meet the board's criteria, Pack said, there will have to be an extensive discussion.
"Without knowing the terms of what they would bring, it's difficult to read the tea leaves," he said. "All the feedback we received and the desire to keep the school intact must be balanced with the needs of our children and the district."
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at email@example.com.