February 16, 2010 in City

District may get Army site

Council OKs Spokane Public Schools request to take over Mann Center
By The Spokesman-Review

The creation of a new high school in Hillyard remains an option under a plan approved Monday by the Spokane City Council.

In the coming months, the military will empty the Joe E. Mann Army Reserve Center in Hillyard, moving reserve unit functions to Fairchild Air Force Base.

The City Council unanimously endorsed a request by Spokane Public Schools to take over the full property. If federal officials agree, the district will buy the land for 20 percent of its value and could move in as early as 2011.

In 2008, the City Council endorsed a district takeover of most of the center, but it also recommended that a portion of the land be sold for private development.

Late last year, the district requested they be given the full property, in part so they could consider building an additional school, potentially similar to Havermale High School, on the southern part of the property. Associate Superintendent Mark Anderson said the site is attractive because it is near the Spokane Skills Center, which trains students from 11 area school districts in several fields, including computer programming, vehicle-collision repair and health science.

“The one-size-fits-all high school is not fitting the needs of all kids,” Anderson said.

Expanding alternative education is one way the district is hoping to decrease its 40 percent dropout rate.

Anderson said that regardless of whether a school is built there, the district will use the center to vacate leased storage and office space. About 100 people will work on site, he said.

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said she supports the change to grant the district all the property.

“With the market conditions we have right now, the likelihood that we would see good commercial use any time in the near future is low,” Verner said.

Under congressional rules for closing military facilities, the city was given input into the property’s future. If the district buys the land, it must comply with the agreement approved by the city for 30 years before it gets the title for the property.

In 2008, the Hillyard Neighborhood Council endorsed a plan that competed with the district’s proposal for the site. That concept focused more on adult education and job training in partnership with Community Colleges of Spokane and other groups. J.R. Sloan, who worked on that plan, said he’s hopeful that the district will allow community uses of the property, such as for farmers markets or as a place for community groups to meet.

“My stance right now is wait and see,” Sloan said. “The community should be involved in the planning process.”

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