(Alexandria, MN) On Monday the Alexandria School Board held a special meeting to discuss their proposal to purchase the Turning Leaf Business Center. Superintendent Julie Critz says 37 guests were in attendance. She says the discussion was quite civil and provided a dialogue that was helpful in making the decision what to do about the property. The largest influence on the board's decision on whether to go forward with a purchase agreement for the 170,000 square foot building, previously known as the Tastefully Simple building, was the ruling by the Minnesota Department of Education. The MDE had given the district a timeline of 60-90 days to make their decision, but early communication indicates that the state's educational governing body would place requirements on the school board that they had no intention of pursuing. The number one area of contention was the MDE's insistence that Alexandria Public Schools provide proof that they could utilize the entire building. Critz says the board never intended to filled the entire space, but rather to eventually occupy up to half of the space ad to lease out the remaining square footage. The District would then use those funds to pay for the annual payments of $726,539.00 To maintain the current leases would have generated more than $1 million, thus providing a little cushion. Tastefully Simply would be one of the tenants of the building. The MDE indicated that it is not in favor of school districts becoming landlords.
At its general board meeting following the 5:00pm gathering, the school board voted to rescind their purchase agreement with Turning Leaf Business Center. Critz says contingencies were included in the agreement that hinged on the MDE's approval of the purchase. In this audio clip, she talks about the nuances of the meeting, the decision to rescind and a little about what the district needs to do moving forward. (AUDIO BELOW)
Superintendent Critz says that outside of the Turning Leaf Business Center it will be difficult finding a facility that is set up technologically to house the district offices without some remodeling. She adds that any big box space that is available would require walls and utilities and other technology which would prove costly. They hope to have an answer to their space needs within the next two months in order to accommodate the plan to reduce class sizes throughout the district. The space currently occupied by the school district and Community Education at Woodland Elementary School would be used to house additional elementary classes. The board will need to determine that quickly in order to provide enough time to remodel the rooms prior to the 2020-2021 school year. Several other leases, including the space used by the gymnastics teams, are coming to an end within a year and a decision would need to be made on renewing those contracts or not.