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School Board OKs Sale of Lemont Elementary Building

by on July 19, 2019 2:06 PM

At a special meeting on Friday, State College Area School Board voted unanimously to move forward with the sale of the former Lemont Elementary School building.

The district has a sales agreement with Volos Properties IV LLC, which plans to purchase the 81-year-old building for $1.3 million and open a private, special education New Story school. New Story currently operates at 14 locations in Pennsylvania — including in Clearfield and DuBois — and provides "special education and behavioral health services to children up to age 21 who have been diagnosed with autism or emotional/behavioral disorders," according to the school's website.

The school board's vote on Friday authorized finance and operations officer Randy Brown and solicitor Scott Etter to petition Centre County Court to approve the sale. Pennsylvania's school code requires a Court of Common Pleas judge to sign off on the sale of public school buildings.

Lemont Elementary formally closed in June. The K-2 school is merging with Houserville Elementary in the new K-5 Spring Creek Elementary School at the Houserville site.

Board member Jim Leous noted that the New Story school could provide services in the future to district students with special needs.

"It's not going to be a school in our school district but it will be potentially a school that we assign students to or send students to," Leous said. "That will reduce our transportation cost to comparable placement programs."

"It will be helpful for families in our area that have those needs," Board President Amber Concepcion said.

The terms of the sales agreement as currently written prohibit Volos or its tenants from operating a charter school in the Elmwood Street building. Brown said that restriction is not in perpetuity but the contract also gives SCASD the right of first refusal if the building is sold.

At the request of several board members, Brown said before the sale is finalized he would explore whether it's legally allowable to prohibit use as a charter school if Volos sells the property to another buyer in the future.

Another provision of the sales agreement requires that the limestone facade of the original front portion of the building, constructed in 1938, be maintained. That was good news for College Township officials and the Lemont Village Association, who said they wanted to see the building preserved.

Lemont resident Ron Smith, who has long been involved with historic preservation efforts in the village, said that a group had previously sought to put the elementary school in the Lemont Historic District but that at the time it wasn't old enough.

Sue Smith, chair of the Lemont Village Association, said she would like to work through the Centre County Historical Society to have the building designated as historic. She said it could also be registered individually in the National Registry of Historic Places.

"It certainly should be preserved as a historic monument," Sue Smith said. "It was built by the Works Progress Administration and it's a classic building."

Brown said that the furniture, fixtures and equipment that will be used at Spring Creek Elementary have already been removed from the building and district staff will go through and take out anything else of value or use before the sale is complete.

The school's bell also has been removed and is being refinished, Brown said.

Closing on the sale of the property and grounds is scheduled to take place on or before Sept. 19.

“We’re happy that the building will remain a school, as many in our community desired,” Brown said in a statement after the meeting. “Moreover, this agreement keeps an important part of Lemont’s history in place by preserving the building’s beautiful architecture.”

New Story was founded in 1997 by psychologist and entrepreneur Paul Volosov.

"Since the company’s inception ... our team of highly skilled educators and therapists have been working with children and their families to provide personalized education and support to help them overcome challenges and achieve success," New Story's website states.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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