Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has begun a process to find potential renters for 11 schools it will close next year, including Davidson IB Middle. And Davidson wants to be the first in line to lease the South Street building.
Davidson IB is one of 11 schools the school district expects to close next year to make up for $100 million in funding cuts from the state.
“The money we expect to receive from the leases may not be substantial – it certainly won’t solve our budget shortfalls,” said Mike Raible, executive director of planning and project management for the school district. “But the leasing process will allow the buildings to continue to be used as a community resource. It’s an appropriate use for former public schools.”
The district will open bidding on the properties, including the IB building, on Friday, March 4.
The middle school’s International Baccalaureate program and its 240 students will move to J.M. Alexander Middle School in Huntersville in the fall.
While Davidson hates to see the school move, it’s hopeful the building’s future use will benefit the community, Davidson Economic Development Manager Kris Krider said.
“It’s really unfortunate that we are losing Davidson IB,” Krider said. “It really is. But we are hopeful that we can work something out with CMS, and we are grateful that they are doing this process and not mothballing these properties and letting them fall apart.”
But the building’s future is unclear. The town envisions a community center at the 251 South St. facility for years. But the town also is open to other uses ,including a partnership with church or other nonprofits.
“We feel that school is part of the community, has always been a part of the community and in the best interest of the community, it should continue to serve in some public fashion,” Krider said.
Davidson will conduct an analysis of the site after the town completes its application to lease the facility. School officials will give first consideration to existing school programs in the bidding process and to bidders who plan to use the facility for educational or community use.
Whoever the district selects to lease Davidson IB will have to contend with the reason school officials decided to move the IB program in the first place – the facility, built in 1948, needs $8 million in improvements.
The multi-story building doesn’t have an elevator, wheelchair-accessible exits, a sprinkler system for fire suppression or central air conditioning and wouldn’t meet standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
But basic repairs to upgrade to a community center-like use could cost less than $8 million, Krider said. That’s because schools have stricter building standards than a community center.
“So what the school might require, such as the accessibility requirements maybe in excess of what Davidson will have to do,” Krider said.
Krider said the town has inspected the buildings’ basic structural integrity and is confident it can be adapted for other uses.
“That building will probably outlive us if protected,” Krider said.