ECASD eyes purchase of Epiphany Lutheran - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

ECASD will look for public input before going to referendum

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - What to do about a space crunch in the Eau Claire school district?  That could soon become a $2.85 million question.  The early learning program is spread out across the district in different buildings. The board wants to free up space in those buildings by finding a central hub.

At Monday night's school board meeting, the board announced it will once again consider buying a church to solve its space needs.

That church is Epiphany Lutheran, that option has a familiar ring to it because the board has been down this road before. There is one difference this time around, the sale price.

ECASD Board President, Carol Craig, says, "We all know that we are out of space, we know that our programs are really growing."

The Eau Claire student population is on the rise, and that means available classroom space is at a premium.

While the district as a whole is dealing with the growing pains, relocating the early learning program is the solution the school board keeps coming back to.

Board member, Ken Faanes, says, "We've asked administration to look at various financing options to purchase the school."

The board wants to buy the Epiphany Lutheran Church.

Faanes says, "It gives us the opportunity to run the program much more efficiently and by that, all the teachers can be in one spot, we're not paying them to travel between the different sites."

Four K would be housed there as well as head start and early childhood special ed.

"There are some special needs for the early childhood programs, one being playground equipment," says Faanes.  

Epiphany is an option the community is familiar with.  Last year,  taxpayers rejected a referendum to buy the building.

Since then, "The factors have changed pretty significantly," Faanes says.  

The original asking price was close to $4 million. The church has reduced that price to $2.85 million. 

"I think it's $67 a square foot that we're buying it for and new construction is $175 a square foot. I mean the public has a right to know that this is a very lucrative opportunity and maybe we shouldn't be passing it by," says Craig.

Faanes says, "The plan is an open discussion, that the board will have to talk about different financing options, including the potential of a referendum."

WQOW News 18 asked the school board if other options have been explored.  Board members say they have considered other empty buildings in the area, for example Little Red, but none meet what they need for early learning, like a playground or central location.

While there is a possibility of going back to referendum next year, the board is looking at other options that wouldn't require raising taxes.

Nothing has been set in stone. The board will have a public discussion about whether to move forward with another referendum.

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - A church reduces its asking price which has the Eau Claire school board thinking about making a deal.

The school district is running out of room, specifically room for its early learning program. On Monday night the school board announced they are once again considering the purchase of Epiphany Lutheran as the solution.

In recent years a referendum asking taxpayers to pay for the building failed. The building and 16 acres of land are now being offered at a significantly reduced price. Originally the building was $4 million, now it is being offered at $2.85 million. Epiphany could make its way back onto the ballot in the spring.

"The full board felt we had a due diligence responsibility to bring this back to the public, to let them know that there is a significant change that's taking place. If we didn't, three, four, five years down the road, and we're proposing to build another building because we're out of space, they would say, why didn't you tell us you could have purchased this at such a reduced price," says ECASD President Carol Craig.

Nothing has been set in stone. The board will have a public discussion about whether to move forward with another referendum.

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