A petition addressed to the School Board of Alachua County is asking that the decision made on May 5th to purchase 37 acres of land for the construction of a future school for $3,680,000 be rescinded.
“We write to request a special meeting of the School Board to consider rescinding the purchase,” the petition states.
“We believe the school district is overpaying for this property. This property was originally purchased in December 2018 for $1,850,000. We are questioning the rationale of purchasing a parcel of property that allows for a 98.9% appreciation in only 15 months time. Furthermore, we believe this is not the time for the school district to purchase additional property for future new schools (the intended time frame to utilize this land is 5-10 years down the road). We are uncertain about the short and long term impacts on the tax base, changes in student population and the new demands that will be placed on public education because of the uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the economic conditions of the county.”
The petition is signed first by Education Advocate Dr. Carlee Simon who is a member of the Education Task Force (ETF) that wrote the petition.
“We do not feel this is the time for the school district to speculate on land,” the petition states. “We believe that when asked today, the majority of voters would not consider spending $3,680,000 for a future school site to be a fiscally responsible decision.”
In Simon’s post she urged candidates running for SBAC seats to weigh in. “Seriously School Board Candidates, we want to know where you stand on this issue! Our time is limited before the election and our face time is even more. Please share your perspectives.”
SBAC Members Gunnar Paulson, Rob Hyatt and Eileen Roy voted in favor of the purchase and Board Members Tina Certain and Leanetta McNealy voted against making the purchase in the midst of a pandemic.
As of late evening on May 10th, the petition had about 130 signatures and was getting shared on Facebook.
Simon said the goal was to get at least 200 signatures before the letter is sent late on Sunday so that it is received by the School Board by Monday and a special meeting can be called.
A special meeting can only be called by the SBAC Chair Eileen Roy or by three board members, Simon said.
Many people have spoken out against the purchase of the property, Simon said. “City commissioners, county commissioners, letters to the school board,” she said. “No one was in favor (of the land purchase) from the community,” she said.
“We are concerned that public input is not being considered at this point,” Simon added and said that the SBAC will have to call a special meeting by 10 a.m. on Monday morning (May 11th) in order to be able to advertise the meeting with sufficient notice to the community.
Simon said the ETF wants to make sure that the community is heard and to prevent the land purchase deal from setting a precedent that the SBAC will act against community wishes in the future especially during a pandemic.
To review the petition, go here.