The Rogue River School District says it will transfer the title of the former Evans Valley Elementary School to a community group that hopes to reuse the space for homeschool students and community gatherings.
The School Board voted unanimously Monday in favor of the plan, and will now have a district lawyer draw up a contract for transferring the title, at no charge to the nonprofit group, the Evans Valley Community Association.
"Hallelujah, it's finally here," said Julie Niles-Fry, director of the Evans Valley Educational Co-op, and member of the community association. "This is a really good option."
Niles-Fry helped organize homeschool families last year through the educational co-op, when the district voted to close Evans Valley Elementary and transfer students to Rogue River Elementary School.
The Evans Valley Community Association, which comprises community members from around Rogue River and Wimer and many parents of former Evans Valley Elementary students, was formed from the old Evans Valley Elementary Parent Teacher Organization.
"This is a great thing for everyone," said board Chairwoman Trayce Jensen, after the vote. "This doesn't approve any contract, but it means we're going to move forward."
The decision to transfer the title falls under an Oregon law on relinquishing property no longer needed for public use.
The transfer of the title to a nonprofit came after more than a year of discussions between the district and the community.
Community members — mostly those involved in the homeschool study group — had tried to negotiate a lease with a the district and had considered a land swap, before the statute was discovered as an option.
Once a contract is drawn up and voted on by the School Board, the non-profit Evans Valley Community Association will take ownership of the property, but it will be open for use to the whole community, including the district if it chooses to book time in the space.
"It's great for the community," said Jensen. "And we are handling taxpayers' money."
The district had the 28-acre property and school site at 8205 East Evans Creek Road in Rogue River appraised this spring, but after an appraisal of just $250,000, hadn't considered putting it on the market.
"It wasn't the amount they had initially thought," said Niles-Fry, who said some board members thought the property would be appraised for a lot more.
"The general consensus at the work sessions is that we did not want to put it up for sale," said board member Robert Hileman.
Niles-Fry said that while the contract isn't final yet, she and other homeschool parents couldn't be more excited.
"We worked for several months with the district to make this happen," said Niles-Fry. "We've got some initial plans, and the community is so excited."
The community group hopes to receive the title from the district in time to make roof repairs for the winter.
Begun last fall, the Evans Valley Educational Co-op has 40 students enrolled, most of whom received their homeschool curricula from Logos Public Charter School in Medford or River's Edge Academy Charter School in Rogue River.
Last year, students met four days a week, and also hosted guests to teach on topics such as archery, mapping, sewing and CPR, Niles-Fry said.
The co-op is capped at 40 students until it secures a permanent location to hold study-groups, which will happen at the former Evans Valley Elementary site if the contract comes to fruition.
"We've all worked very hard and diligently," said Niles-Fry.
Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.