It’s always nice to have options — and the Killeen Independent School District certainly has them.
At a joint meeting last week between the Killeen school board and Killeen City Council, district officials shared a list of facilities that could be designated as excess property, according to state law.
Many of the properties identified on the KISD list qualify as excess, thanks to voter approval last year of a $426 million construction bond that will provide several new campuses across the district.
Under the district’s plans, Nolan Middle School will close by summer 2020. West Ward, Clifton Park, Sugar Loaf and Bellaire elementary schools will close the following year.
The closed schools will represent a combined total of more than 532,000 square feet and 66 acres of property that the district must figure out what do with.
That’s in addition to the old Sallie Mae building on Twin Creek Drive, which is 30,000 square feet on 4 acres, with a contiguous 5 acres of undeveloped land — all of which the district owns.
At Tuesday’s joint meeting, Superintendent John Craft outlined four basic options the state provides for the conveyance of these excess properties — should KISD decide to sell them. The first would involve opening a property up to a public bid. The second would call for conveying the property to an institution of higher education. The third would involve selling the property to a governmental entity. In the case of historic school sites, the district could donate the property to a city, county or state agency — an action that would require a public hearing.
Bellaire and Clifton Park will be closed to make way for a combined campus that will open behind the current Nolan Middle School in 2021.
Both elementaries are in high-traffic areas, with Clifton Park facing Trimmier Road and Bellaire fronting on Jasper Drive, just off of Florence Road. Both locations make it dangerous for walking children and difficult for parents to drop off students.
Consequently, the new combined school will face Second Street, away from the more heavily traveled cross streets nearby.
Given Clifton Park’s location and proximity to commercial properties, the district probably should consider selling it at public bid. As it sits on nearly 10 acres of property, the school should draw considerable interest. The same holds true for Bellaire, which sits on 6.4 acres. Its proximity to the I-14 access road may also make it an ideal location for a satellite college campus.
The district has already had some discussion about turning the current Nolanville Middle School into administrative offices. The campus’ central location and ease of access to the interstate would make this a logical choice. Also, with 113,000 square feet of space, the building could accommodate several district departments with room to spare.
If the district were to put Sugar Loaf and West Ward elementaries up for sale, the market might not be so strong.
Sugar Loaf sits on 7 acres, but it is right in the middle of an established housing area in western Killeen. Still, it’s possible a developer might consider the site for a complex of townhomes or apartments.
The same holds true for West Ward Elementary School, though its northside location and close proximity to Fairway Middle School may limit its marketability.
History offers some context here. After Fairway closed its doors as a middle school the district put the school up for sale in 2017 but only received a few nibbles, including an extremely low bid of $50,000 from a church that wanted to transform it into a Christian academy school. The district subsequently took the school off the market.
Fairway had been considered as a transition location for students relocated by the East Ward/West Ward consolidation project, but officials subsequently found that too much renovation work would be required to transform it into an elementary school — especially on a temporary basis.
By far the most commercially attractive property the district has is the old Sallie Mae facility, located across the street from what is now Teleperformance. At 30,000 square feet and with an adjacent five-acre lot, it could draw considerable interest. However, the district put it up for bid in 2017 and the two highest bidders offered just $150,000 — an amount rejected as too low by the school board.
Obviously, the district has a lot of choices with how to handle its surplus facilities.
And it’s no coincidence that Craft went over this list during Tuesday’s joint meeting with Killeen council members.
Killeen’s aging city hall has been the subject of discussion for several years, especially after the third floor was largely vacated because of structural concerns.
While some departments have been relocated to the Arts and Activities Center, the city still faces a shortage of office and storage space.
Given this dilemma, the city might be wise to check out either the Clifton Park or Bellaire properties — each of which offers more than 55,000 square feet of space.
Considering the state law requires the district to sell properties below what is considered Fair Market Value, the city could get a good deal while gaining much-needed room.
And with the exception of Fairway and the old Sallie Mae facility, all KISD facilities are equipped with fiber optic cable, according to district spokesman Terry Abbott — another plus for a governmental entity looking for a property.
With several bond-related building projects underway, and attendance zone hearings about to begin for the district’s new Maude Moore Wood Elementary off Rosewood Drive, KISD officials no doubt will have their hands full in the coming weeks.
Still, it may serve them well to stay on top of the changing Killeen-area real estate market.
If they play their cards right, they may be able to swing a deal that would benefit both the city and the district — while putting an old school to good use.
More importantly, such a deal has the potential to save local taxpayers some money.
And that’s an option most residents would choose every time.