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Madison School Board

The Madison School Board on Monday pushed back a vote on whether to purchase a South Side office building for $4 million to serve as a new home for some of the district’s special education programs.

The board was initially scheduled to decide Monday whether to purchase the 30,000-square-foot office building south of the Beltline and east of Rimrock Road, but Board President Gloria Reyes asked for a delay in the decision until December to allow more time for the public to weigh in on the plan and ask questions.

The plan didn’t become publicly available until Friday afternoon, when the meeting agenda was posted online.

In a Facebook post Sunday, MadisonPartners for Inclusive Education, an advocacy group for students with disabilities, said it was “unacceptable” for the proposal to be voted on three days after it became public.

“This provides almost no time for community members to provide feedback about this purchase,” the post said.

While Reyes said board members have been familiar with the proposed purchase through closed-session negotiations on the property, she said the delay “gives us an opportunity to have a more robust conversation and hear from our community.”

The building at 333 Holtzman Road is currently the headquarters for Hy Cite Enterprises, a cookware-distribution company.

Proposed purchase

If the purchase is approved by the board next month, the district would be able to move two alternative special education programs, NEON and Steps, as well a voluntary program called RESTORE for students at risk of expulsion, out of a leased building on Olin Avenue.

The district spends about $250,000 a year to lease and maintain the Olin property and moving into the new building could expand enrollment in the special education programs, according to a staff memo on the proposed purchase.

The $4 million to purchase the building would come from $4.6 million the district received from the closure of three tax incremental finance districts.

The remaining $600,000 could be used to renovate the building, which is in “pretty good shape,” said Kelly Ruppel, the district’s chief financial officer.

Chad Wiese, the district’s director of building services, said trades professionals employed by the district could potentially do much of the renovation, resulting in some cost savings.

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Despite the property being assessed for taxing purposes at $2.3 million, Wiese said the $4 million purchase price is a “very fair asking price for a building in this condition with this amount of land.”

For commercial real estate, Wiese said, assessed value often “doesn’t necessarily correlate with what a property ends up going for on the open market.”

The property is located in the Moorland-Rimrock neighborhood, where the district is exploring the idea of a new elementary school as part of a potential $315 million facilities referendum next year. But Wiese said the district is not suggesting an elementary school be built on the 3.6-acre site.

“The lot would be pretty small as far as elementary school standards go,” Wiese said.

Wiese said a typical elementary school requires at least five acres. He said the search for property in the neighborhood is ongoing.

The Holtzman Road building could also be used for larger staff training sessions or meetings — especially those that happen during school hours — which would cut down on the district renting space for such purposes, he said.

“We find ourselves renting professional development space throughout the city and that dollar figure also adds up rather quickly,” Wiese said.

Also during Monday’s meeting, the board received a petition to rename Glendale Elementary School on the Southeast Side after Virginia Henderson — a longtime school psychologist at the school, philanthropist and advocate for African American children. She died in April.

The school is named for the Glendale neighborhood where it’s located. A committee will be formed to evaluate the renaming proposal and look at any other suggestions that may be received. A decision by the School Board on renaming the school is expected in January or February.

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