Merced College OKs sale of land for new Los Banos elementary school

Los Banos district to use site for elementary school

By Ameera Butt / abutt@mercedsunstar.comMarch 16, 2012 

The Merced College board of trustees approved a $1 million sale of land to the Los Banos Unified School District during a special meeting this week, paving the way for the K-12 district to create a new elementary school.

The school will house kindergarten through sixth grades and about 450 students on-site, said Steve Tietjen, superintendent for the district.

The elementary school would open in August 2013, and construction will begin this fall. The property, which was the old Los Banos campus for Merced College at 16570 S. Mercey Springs Road, had been vacant since the new Los Banos campus opened in 2007. Merced College decided to sell the property about four years ago, said Interim President Ben Duran.

"It's been sitting there for a lot of years," said Mazie Brewington, vice president of administrative services.

The property wasn't needed for school classroom buildings, according to agenda documents.

The school district is looking into modernizing the buildings or replacing them with portable ones, Tietjen said.

He estimated it could cost $1.4 million to $1.5 million for each option. The school district has grown in the past three years, with 300 more students enrolled this year and the same number expected for next year, he said. There are 9,500 students enrolled in the district.

Originally, the district was going to pay the college $3.5 million, but the appraised value of the property has dropped sharply in the last three years, Tietjen said.

"It still warrants a million (dollar) value because the curbs and gutters are still there," he said. "If it was just raw land, it wouldn't have been worth half that much."

He said the community wants to see the property being used as a school.

"The community felt strongly it should remain a school," he said. "We're able to build an elementary school for about a third of the cost."

Over the years, several potential buyers have expressed interest in the property, Brewington said. For example, the state of California wanted to build a courthouse there.

Brewington said the money would be put back into the Los Banos campus budget.

A community college district may sell property that it doesn't need for classroom buildings to any other school district, according to agenda documents.

Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or abutt@mercedsunstar.com.

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