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Clara S. Bacon Elementary School sale up for referendum

Clara S. Bacon Elementary School sale up for referendum

Clara S. Bacon Elementary School sale up for referendum
The former Clara Bacon Elementary School in Amsterdam is pictured.
Photographer: Gazette file photo

AMSTERDAM -- Residents of the Greater Amsterdam School District will vote Tuesday from noon to 9 p.m. on whether to sell the former Clara S. Bacon Elementary School. 

The district has a sales agreement to sell the 20.4-acre property at 40 Henrietta Blvd. to Thousand Acre Associates, the real estate arm of district's current  lessee, Whispering Pines Preschool. The sale price will be $224,000, provided voters approve the sale and Whispering Pines executes the agreement. 

The Clara S. Bacon Elementary School was among the first built using a circular style construction, and features an atrium at its center.

Whispering Pines has operated a preschool program at the school for the last 10 years, providing early intervention treatment and education for children with autism and other special needs. The preschool currently employs about 85 people at the building and provides services to 208 children, most of them placed at the school from districts in Montgomery, Fulton and Schenectady counties. 

Martha Frank, executive director of Whispering Pines Preschool, said her organization, which also has locations in Schenectady, Fulton and Schoharie counties, sees an opportunity to expand its operations in Amsterdam with ownership of the for Clara S. Bacon school. She said Whispering Pines has steadily increased its use of the classroom space in the building over the past 10 years, starting at about 25 percent and currently using 80 percent, with only two classrooms currently not in use. 

Under its lease agreement with the school district, Whispering Pines says it pays in excess of $100,000 per year and every additional classroom used cost more money. Frank said after the purchase she anticipates using those two empty classrooms to provide programs that give children with severe physical disabilities more individualized attention. Owning the property will also allow her organization to expand on the $70,000 investment it made in building a playground area on the school property. 

"We would prefer to continue to lease of course, but in terms of purchasing the building it will allow us to do some of the long-term maintenance items that have been deferred by the district," Frank said. 

Frank said the Amsterdam school board told her earlier this year that it wanted to sell the school, in part because of the increasing liability from deferred maintenance. She said the district allowed Whispering Pines to extend its lease until January 2020 to give it time to obtain financing to purchase the property. 

Frank said her organization has the financing necessary to purchase the building through TD Bank, but is still working on securing funds to pay for the repairs needed to the roof, which could cost $100,000 to $500,000. She said the total estimate for all of the needed repairs to the building is $500,00 to $700,000. 

Whispering Pines has applied for a $190,000 New York State Consolidated Funding Application grant to help pay for some of the repair costs. CFA grant awards are typically announced in December. 

Frank said Whispering Pines' purchase of the building is not contingent on receipt of the grant.  

District Interim Superintendent Raymond Colucciello said voter approval would give the district the authority to sell the property to any purchaser, but Whispering Pines will have the right to execute the sales agreement agreed to by the school board earlier this year. He said the election, which will have four polling locations, will cost approximately $10,000.

The four polling places are Amsterdam High School, Lynch Literacy Academy, Marie Curie Institute and the Barkley MicroSociety. The district said anyone with questions about their polling place should call school board clerk Lorrie Schell at (518) 843-3180 ext 7801. 

District Business Manager Colleen DiCaprio said if voters reject the referendum, or if Whispering Pines elects not to buy the building by January, then the preschool would have until April 30 to either renegotiate its lease or leave the building.

In 2010 district voters approved the sale of the building to a Buddhist group for $450,000, but the group never purchased the building. DiCaprio said the sales price has been lowered due to the deferred maintenance costs at the building. 



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