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School district finds a bargain

CENTRAL POINT — Trying to plan for ongoing enrollment increases in one of the fastest-growing districts in the Rogue Valley, School District 6 Superintendent Samantha Steele was all smiles Friday after finalizing deed paperwork for a 6.68-acre property on the farthest end of South Second Street near Central Point Elementary.

Compared to the more than $30 million price tag for new construction of a typical elementary school, Steele figured the district will have been able to purchase and renovate the former Genesis Recovery Center, which closed in 2009, for half the price — or less — of new school construction.

The property boasts five buildings, and even after a decade of non-use they are more modern and in better repair than many of the district’s aging structures.

Aside from Central Point Elementary, the new portion of which was built with bond money approved by voters in 2000, the other two in-town elementary schools, Jewett and Mae Richardson, lack air conditioning — or updated electrical infrastructure that would permit window air-conditioning units to be used.

Genesis Recovery Center was operated by Asante Health System for 23 years, and District 6 officials signed off on the $1.9 million property purchase Friday afternoon. Steele said the campus-style property and its infrastructure were a good fit for the district, which was focused on being frugal with taxpayer dollars.

“Ultimately our buildings have been well used and well loved. With the exception of CPE, which was built brand new in 2000, all our other buildings need significant improvements for things like student safety and HVAC,” said Steele.

“We know it’s going to eventually take a bond to really get our facilities where we need them to be, but we also want to be as prudent as possible for taxpayers to see us using those dollars we do have very carefully. This was a good way to leverage our resources now to make growth affordable in the future.”

Steele said consistent enrollment increases for the past five years indicates the district, already bursting at the seams, will see continued growth.

“We know we would never be able to pass a bond that would replace the buildings in our district, so we need to be smart about planning and allowing for the growth we are experiencing.”

Steele said possible uses for the new property include an early-learning facility, or preschool, moving all kindergarten and first-grade students to the new facility to alleviate crowding at the grade schools, or creation of a “program of choice” with a different philosophy for students K through second grade.

District 6 Board Chair Bret Moore said the property, however it’s used, was a good move for the district.

“It’s a good value for the taxpayers as far as the price we had to pay and the facilities that are there. It seems that what’s there already will be usable and give us some options,” Moore said.

“There’s a lot of infrastructure already there — paved parking and other things — which will all be beneficial. We have a lot of kids going through our elementary schools right now, so this could provide us with some really good options to alleviate that for a reasonable cost until we could do something else in the future.”

Steele smiled as she looked at the old trees and flowering bushes around the quiet parcel of land.

“It’s beautiful. When you’re out here, you feel like you’re at an elementary school. It already has beautiful, established landscaping and some very expensive infrastructure already in place, and there’s a nice courtyard in the center,” she said.

“It’s a really fabulous piece of property, and we’re thrilled to be able to use it for our district. This will open up some opportunity for the district that we would not have otherwise had.”

Reach Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune School District 6 Superintendent Samantha Steele holds the deed for a 6.68-acre property in Central Point purchased Friday by the school district.