After an initial round of bidding failed to yield results, the Galesburg School Board found success in their second attempt.
During a special Board of Education meeting Thursday afternoon, members agreed to the sale of Cooke Elementary.
The school was closed earlier this year due to its student population being in violation of the state of Illinois’ 70/30 special education rule, along with other budgetary concerns.
Learning Connections – which will be a tenant of the building being purchased by Hillside, LLC – was the winning bidder with a price of $310,000. The company already operates sites in Mackinaw and Bartonville, Illinois and specializes in early education. They beat out West Central Community Head Start and the Galesburg Rescue Mission and Women’s Shelter for the facility.
Learning Connections Galesburg Site Director Tammy Folger tells WGIL there was one big reason they wanted the building.
“Timing,” says Folger. “The closure of Cooke school and the building becoming available as well as the closing of the children’s school at Carl Sandburg College. There was obviously a need in the community and Learning Connections was able to expand and hopefully fill that need.”
The board gave unanimous approval on Thursday. Transferring the deed and title should be completed by July 31st. District 205 says that deadline was put in place to satisfy the needs of Learning Connections, but if documents are completed prior to that date, the sale could be finalized before then.
District 205 Superintendent Bart Arthur tells WGIL it’s good for the district not to have the costs associated with the building.
“Honestly, I think the parents know that now it’s an endgame and we’re going to move forward,” says Arthur. “To tell you the truth, I think the way the Steele [elementary] staff welcomed the kids from Cooke was just tremendous and I think the parents feel better about how their people will be treated at Steele.”
Learning Connections says they hope to be the premiere early learning center in the area. Once the facility is operational, anticipated for August of this year, six classrooms will be available. An expansion is expected from there, ultimately utilizing all 12 classrooms at the site. The company says about 15 to 20 staff members could be hired to serve children ages six weeks to 12-years-old.
District representatives had, in previous rounds of bidding, offered tours of the school to those interested, even offering explanations of some of the mechanicals at the Cooke Elementary site.
The school board initially set Cooke Elementary’s minimum bid price at $350-thousand. While two bids were received during that round, neither met the minimum requirements, prompting the School Board to lower their price to $280-thousand.
Though the price was significantly reduced, District 205 administration was confident they would still receive a price above $300-thousand. Arthur tells WGIL the bid was equitable.
“The way our state funding and federal funding is going, we just couldn’t operate inefficiently anymore,” says Arthur. “That’s the one thing that was great because it was a smaller climate and a smaller setting and the kids probably felt a little more comfortable, but all our buildings have 400 kids in them and they’ll adjust really well.”
Some students at Cooke will be transferred to Steele Elementary starting this school year.