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Board of Education Holds Public Hearing on Possible Sale of Madison Campus

(Updated September 20, 2021) The Council Bluffs Community School District Board of Education held a public hearing for September 14th at 6:30 pm on the proposed sale of the Madison Campus. The district has received an offer from a potetial buyer.

The Madison Campus building is the former Target store at the Mall of the Bluffs purchased by the school district for the purpose of serving as a temporary school site during the renovation of Kirn and Wilson Middle Schools. Now that both schools have reopened, the district is considering the options of whether to sell or retain the property.  

“The landscape of the Mall of the Bluffs area has changed significantly since the purchase of the property, with the addition of Menards and the demolition of the mall,” Superintendent Dr. Vickie Murillo said. “The Board of Education approved placing the property on the market to see what the market would bear.”

According to Dr. Murillo, under Iowa law, school districts follow specific procedures for the purchase or sale of property. A public hearing is an important part of the process.

The Board also launched a survey of parents, staff and community members to seek input on the future use of the facility. More than 950 participated in the survey to share ideas.

Stated rationale among those who suggested selling the property included using the revenue from the sale to fund other district needs or to reduce the current bond. Other stated advantages to selling included the potential to bring in additional jobs and tax revenue to the community. Stated rationale for those who suggested retaining the building for future use by the district included being able to move the district’s central office out of the currently-leased space, creating additional meeting space for professional development, moving the Kanesville Alternative Learning Center, and utilizing the space for other purposes, such as storage, trades education, performing arts, youth recreation or as an early learning center. 

At the same time the Board is considering the future of the Madison Campus, the school district is moving forward with the plans to build an early learning center on the site of the former Tinley school at 8th Street and Avenue G. The facility will be designed specifically to meet the unique needs of children under the age of 5, with outdoor play spaces and a learning environment that is consistent with early education and childcare facility requirements. The Madison Campus does not meet these standards. A grant from the State of Iowa and private donations will help fund the construction, equipment and start-up costs for the center. The district is not relying on the potential for sale proceeds from the Madison Campus to fund the Early Learning Center.

“The Board is following due diligence to determine whether it makes economic and prudent sense to sell the property or to invest additional funds to repurpose it for other district programs,” Board president Chris LaFerla said. “Along with feedback from staff, parents and community members, we are considering other key factors before we make a decision.” These include ongoing costs for ownership of the building, whether we can fully utilize the 93,000 square foot facility, the status of other district-owned and leased property, and where we can best meet the educational needs of students.” 

The building was purchased for $1.9 million and was renovated at a total cost of $4.4 million, using proceeds from a $37 million bond approved by district voters in September of 2018 to renovate the middle schools. 

The approved ballot measure stated: Shall the Board of Directors of the Council Bluffs Community School District in the County of Pottawattamie, State of Iowa, be authorized to contract indebtedness and issue General Obligation Bonds in an amount not to exceed $37,000,000 to provide funds to renovate, remodel, improve, furnish and equip the existing Middle School buildings, including site improvements; and to acquire, renovate, remodel, improve, furnish and equip a new relocation facility?

In informational materials presented to voters prior to the special election, the District stated that a relocation facility would be used as an alternate site to shorten the renovation schedule, rather than stretching it over multiple years while students are occupying school buildings. The cost to utilize an alternate site was more cost effective than extending the construction out over several years at each building, which would escalate construction and materials costs.  In addition, the relocation facility prevented students from attending school in an active construction zone.