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Central High Schools move makes sense

Change is never easy, especially when it involves having to move a business or a nonprofit organization. That’s certainly the case for the 24 tenants occupying Cobblestone Village, which is slated to become the new home of Medford’s alternative high school. But the move makes sense for the district, it’s a prudent use of public dollars, and district officials say they will work to help displaced tenants as much as they can.

The Medford School District is moving Central Medford High School out of the former South Medford High School building on Oakdale Avenue in preparation for remodeling that property into a third middle school. The owner of Cobblestone put that property up for sale in December. School district officials announced plans to purchase it in January.

The property already has a campus-like feel, with multiple indoor spaces surrounding a central courtyard. District educators are excited about the flexibility that comes with that configuration, including the ability to continue a gardening program students now pursue at the Oakdale location. In addition, commercial-grade kitchen equipment in one space formerly occupied by a restaurant will be useful for the school’s existing culinary arts program.

Buying an existing property and remodeling to meet educational needs is less expensive than building new — and allows the district to use the old building for its third middle school rather than constructing a new building for that as well. District taxpayers should be happy about both of those decisions. For now, the district is able to cover the purchase of Cobblestone with reserves, and likely will finance the additional costs involved in converting it for use as a school.

Central students and other alternative programs will be temporarily housed in leased space at the soon-to-be vacated Cascade Christian Elementary School on Crater Lake Avenue starting after this school year. That will allow time to remodel Cobblestone — and to negotiate with tenants, some of whom have long-term leases. Work on converting the Oakdale building into a middle school is scheduled to start in late spring.

Not all of the 35 Cobblestone units are occupied, and eight of those that are have leases expiring by the end of this year. More expire each year after that.

It’s unfortunate that tenants will be forced to move, but it’s also not an unusual situation when there is an ownership change. If a commercial interest had bought the property, there’s no guarantee all the existing tenants would have been able to stay.

If there is any good news for tenants, it’s that the school district, as a tax-supported entity, has an interest in maintaining a positive image with the public. District officials have pledged to work with tenants to ease the transition where they can. That may not mean displaced business owners get every consideration they might want, but their concerns should be addressed as much as possible.

Ultimately, the new middle school will ease space issues for the district in an affordable fashion, and Central High School will have a new home well suited to its needs.

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