District 51 considers sale of land at park to charter school

District 51 School Board members will decide tonight whether the district should pursue a land sale that will provide a new home for Independence Academy.

The district owns 14.24 acres of Matchett Park in north Grand Junction. The city of Grand Junction owns the rest of the park. Tonight’s resolution would direct District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz to meet with Independence Academy representatives to discuss where on the district’s property the charter school could feasibly locate a new school building and determine whether the approximately four acres the school would comprise could be subdivided, sold and developed in a timely, legal manner.

Independence Academy would have to purchase the land from the district before building a school there. The price for the four-acre parcel is estimated at $212,800, according to board documents.

The charter school is housed in the former Lincoln Park Elementary School building at 600 North 14th St. The district would like to use that building for other purposes, according to District 51 Executive Director of Support Services Melissa Callahan DeVita. The building is being considered as a new home for The Opportunity Center, she said, which is in a space the district rents from Hilltop at 1129 Colorado Ave.

“Our goal is we have space we own so let’s not pay rent anymore,” DeVita said.

Independence Academy’s lease on the Lincoln Park building expires July 1. DeVita said the district likely will extend the lease for another year and then on a month-by-month basis to allow the school time to construct a new building within the next couple years.

The district bought 14 acres on the Matchett Park site in 1996 to prepare for the possibility of building a new elementary school in that area. DeVita said a new elementary could still be built someday on the remaining 10 acres the district owns. The district’s land is “floating,” which means the city of Grand Junction and the district would have to come to an agreement about where best the district can utilize its 14 acres to accommodate city plans for the park as a whole. The charter school site may be located in a different part of the park than the rest of the district’s land so that a future school would not have to be next door to Independence Academy, according to DeVita.

The school board resolution allows the district to take back the land after a potential sale to the charter school if the school does not build a new building “within a reasonable time” and declares the district will not be responsible for any costs that may be associated with subdividing the property. If the district does not sell the Matchett property to Independence Academy, DeVita said the school will have to search for other property.


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