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New Berlin schools close to selling elementary building to Heritage Christian but will need city app

Glen Park Elementary School in New Berlin might be sold to Heritage Christian.

Glen Park Elementary School in New Berlin might be sold to Heritage Christian. Photo By Peter Zuzga

May 2, 2014

New Berlin — The electorate of the New Berlin School District will vote Monday, May 12, on whether to sell the former Glen Park Elementary School, 3500 S. Glen Park Road.

Glen Park closed at the end of the 2011-12 school year because the School Board felt the district had excess capacity at the elementary school level and to save money.

The district has an accepted offer of $1.75 million for the school that sits on 10 acres in the Glen Park Subdivision from the Heritage Christian Schools, Town of Brookfield.

Heritage wants to consolidate its 550 students at Glen Park and build a gymnasium addition. The basic plan is to spend about $300,000 to upgrade the school and that plus the addition and other expenses and buying the school itself could bring the total estimated cost for Heritage to about $4 million.

Heritage Superintendent John Davis could not confirm that figure.

New Berlin schools would use the sale proceeds for facilities work, mainly at Eisenhower Middle/High School. If the electorate approves selling the school, a closing would still be weeks away. First, Heritage would like to know if the city will approve their proposed addition.

"It's possible things would come up at the Plan Commission that could nix the deal," Davis said.

Heritage plans to go before the commission on June 2. Heritage, and the New Berlin district are in the 90-day due diligence phase where discoveries from either side could mean a sale would be called off, Davis said.

New Berlin School Board President David Maxey spoke strongly in favor of the proposed sale.

"The Board of Education believes the price that we have approved for the Glen Park property is fair," he said in an emailed statement. "More importantly, keeping the property as a school for the Glen Park neighborhood, as well as utilizing the revenue of the sale of the property to put toward our long-range facilities projects, helped us determine that this is the right decision for the School District of New Berlin and the New Berlin community as a whole."

Even though the 550 students from prekindergarten through high school whom Heritage hopes to bring to Glen Park is nearly double the 300 elementary students who attended the school before it closed, Glen Park once had enrollments in the 500s. That was when it served as the district's only middle school.

Davis said commotion at school start and end times could be minimized for neighbors by staggering start and end times for preschool, kindergarten, elementary, middle and high schools.

Davis said he was at private schools of 600 and said, "It can be done very smoothly." He said he wants to make sure of that.

"I want to bend over backward to work with the community and make sure everything flows well," Davis said.

Heritage is close to nailing down final financing arrangements, Davis said. Heritage is back on its feet after suffering large financial loses that Davis said were the result of working with someone who purported to be with a company but was not.

The schools' resulting financial instability was one of the reasons why the school left its location on Highway 100 in West Allis at the end of the 2010-11 school year, Davis said.

Heritage sued over the financial matter and a settlement last December resulted in Heritage having enough for a down payment on a new school, he said. Heritage officials hope that can happen or start to happen in the 2015-16 school year, he said.

For the school district's part, Roger Dickson, chief financial and operations officer, said: "The district has obtained reasonable assurance of the ability of Heritage to secure necessary financing."

Glen Park has been listed for sale with Anderson Commercial since mid-September after city officials decided the school wouldn't fit the needs of recreation programs now held at Hickory Grove.

"For us the building was too big, the changeover from Hickory Grove would have been too much of a switch and utility costs would have been higher so we decided to stay where we are," said New Berlin Mayor Dave Ament.

So school officials said it was time to move ahead on the sale.

"We have had the listing on the market for several months," Superintendent Joe Garza said. "We were open to various options for the property, but in the end, after hearing from the Glen Park neighborhood constituency, we felt there was no need to wait."

Some worry that another private school in the city might attract students from the New Berlin public schools, meaning state aid would go down. But officials aren't worried because parents have always had multiple options in the community including parochial, charter and private schools, Garza said. They also can send their children to public schools outside the district through the state Open Enrollment program, he said.

"We respect the rights of the parents of children in the School District of New Berlin to determine which setting best meets their children's needs," Garza said.

Dickson said that "having another private school in the district is likely to have a minimal impact on school enrollment and our long-term planning accommodates this likelihood."

William Adams, a leader in the fight to keep Glen Park open, said he would like to see the school building preserved.

"Glen Park School is an architecturally significant building," he said, designed by a distinguished architect.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: meeting of the New Berlin School District electorate to vote on whether to sell Glen Park Elementary School

WHEN: 6 p.m. Monday, May 12

WHERE: New Berlin West Middle/High School, 18695 W. Cleveland Ave., idea center

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