Updated Wednesday, 2:58 p.m.
By DAVID BORAKS
Three organizations have formally expressed interest in leasing Davidson IB Middle School after Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools closes the building next month. The Town of Davidson, Lake Norman Christian School, and a group called The Guardian Alliance all submitted bids for the site, at 251 South St.
CMS said late Tuesday it received a total of 60 bids for leasing 11 facilities that will become available when the district closes schools and offices as part of budget cutting for the 2011-12 school year. CMS in March called for bids for community organizations that might want to lease, operate and maintain the facilities. Bids were due May 13.
Davidson IB Middle School is a more than 60-year-old building on South Street, one block from Main Street, that once housed Davidson Elementary School. The school’s Middle Years Baccalaureate Program will relocate next year, becoming a school-within-a-school at J.M. Alexander Middle School in Huntersville.
Despite the building’s age and condition, the town and the school were among several interested groups that toured the school with CMS officials in April.
Lake Norman Christian School currently operates at two sites in Huntersville. Davidson town officials have expressed interest in using the site for parks and recreation offices and programs, and to make it available for other community uses.
Guardian Alliance has bid on all 11 buildings up for lease. Sam Kodaimati, a spokesman with Guardian Foundation of Monroe, said the group is an alliance of unnamed partners who want to turn all the vacant schools into a network of “Guardian Community Development Centers.”
The group’s proposal says the centers would be open year-round, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., providing tutoring, day care, after school programs, food service, sports and recreation, and social programs. He said some of the foundation’s capital is donated by GuardianRent, an insurance company that serves owners of rental property.
WHAT WOULD TOWN USE IT FOR?
Mayor John Woods said town officials are considering how the town might use the building. The town is hoping to negotiate a $1-a-year arrangement similar to what the town as at the Ada Jenkins Center, on Gamble Street.
The latest draft of the town’s 2011-12 budget includes $20,000 for a study of the property. The town also has engineering and site plans prepared in 2008, when the town and CMS were considering a joint $7 million renovation and expansion of the building for use as a combined school and community recreation center.
“We really see that as a valuable community site that could be used for multiple uses related to the community,” Mayor Woods said Wednesday. Besides the town’s parks and recreation department, it could be shared with religious institutions and other community groups.
Mayor Woods said the town already has been in discussions with Davidson United Methodist Church, which he said “would have high interest in using the building.”
In 2008, Davidson and the school system developed a joint-use plant that envisioned constructing a new gymnasium and other additions to allow the school also to be used as a community recreation center. Voters approved both school and parks & recreation bonds to help pay for the project. The town was prepared to commit funds, and other donors, including Davidson United Methodist Church, offered funds. But the plan died with the economic downturn and collapse of the bond market.
For now, any use by the town would be limited to the existing building, Mayor Woods said. Davidson could pay for at least a portion of the cost of operating the building with money saved on rent at the Armour Street building Parks & Rec now occupies. The town’s annual rent there is $46,344, and its lease is up at the end of August 2011, though it could renew the lease month to month if needed. Partners also could help pay a portion of the costs, Mayor Woods said.
Mayor Woods said he hopes the town eventually could consider a renovation or expansion.
“Among our first challenges with that property will be the old gymnasium,” Mayor Woods said. “That building is in poor repair, it’s old, it’s a classic old gymnasium that all of us grew up in.” The gym was part of the old Davidson primary school that burned in 1946. Mayor Woods said the roof may need replacement. “We’ll need to immediately determine how and if we could stabilize the property.”
It’s not clear yet how CMS will pick tenants for the buildings. The district said in a press release Tuesday that its planners have asked the Charlotte Mecklenburg school board for “guidance on how to choose the best tenants.”
CMS said the staff has developed a “scoring tool” that weights financial benefits and educational purposes for each site. The staff plans to look at potential tenants’ legal qualifications, quality, and uses. They’ll take into account CMS liability at each site and try to maximize net revenue. They’ll give priority to educational and community uses and consider how the uses will benefit the community.
The school board is expected to discuss its ranking process at its June 28 meeting, and could decide on potential tenants in July. School district staff then would begin negotiating leases, CMS said. Tenants could take over buildings this fall.
Lease holders will be responsible for all costs associated with operation and maintenance of the buildings. Davidson IB and other buildings will be available after the current school year ends.
Other schools up for lease are Amay James, Double Oaks, Plaza Road and Tryon Hills pre-kindergarten centers; Pawtuckett Elementary; Smith, and Wilson middle schools; Midwood High and two former elementary schools now used by the district as the Family Application and Professional Development centers.
May 12, 2011, “Survey results: What should happen to Davidson IB school?” – A report on a DavidsonNews.net survey of readers seeking ideas for the site.
April 21, 2011, “Potential tenants tour Davidson IB school.”
Download a CMS update presentation about the leasing process from the May 24 school board meeting (PDF), CLICK HERE »