By MAX FILBY
Van Buren School District will pay $206,000 to buy two nearby properties so it can expand its campus.
The purchase became official Thursday night when the school board approved. The properties are at 211 S. Main St. and 205 Maple St.
The district is seeking to expand its campus so it can build a new gym and additional classrooms.
Superintendent Tim Myers said the district is planning to demolish the two houses later this year. Both properties were owned by Van Buren resident Ruthellen Yildez.
Yildez lives in one of the houses, and her daughter and grandchildren live in the other. Yildez said she asked the school district to expedite the purchase because her daughter was already looking at another house.
The district hopes to buy three more properties for the campus expansion. Myers said the district may be able to acquire the remaining three lots. He has been negotiating with the property owners for the past few months.
If the district is unable to acquire them, it will simply build around them, Myers said.
“It’ll be fine, we would still have a quality facility,” he said of the school construction.
In January, Van Buren school board approved putting a $29 million levy proposal on the May 6 ballot.
If voters approve the 37-year, 6.9-mill package, it would pay for construction of new classrooms and a gym at the middle school and high school.
The district is not eligible for state funding for the project because its property valuation is too high for the number of students enrolled, according to the state.
If the bond issue doesn’t pass in May, it will likely reappear on the November ballot, Myers said.
“We’re very hopeful that the community will understand our needs,” Myers said.
The new classrooms and gym would replace an existing portion of the school that was built in 1918. The project would also include improvements to the heating and air conditioning systems in both of Van Buren’s schools.
“We’re starting to have a lot of physical problems with areas of the buildings,” Myers said. The building’s chimneys and floors are deteriorating, and the building has leaks.
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