With just weeks until an expected deadline to make a decision, Virgil’s deputy town supervisor said it’s unlikely the town will be able to buy the former Virgil Elementary School.
“There are bond restrictions on the school that limit anything we are able to do with it,” Jereme Stiles said recently. “It’s not a feasible, viable option at this point.”
Both the Virgil Elementary School and the Parker Elementary School closed in July 2019, leaving the school district with two empty buildings and no set plans. Plans to convert the Parker Elementary School into a child care center are on hold at city council, delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bond restrictions make it impossible to generate any profit off the building, eliminating the town board’s plans to convert it into a town hall and renting out the extra space. Buying the school would put the town in a bad financial position, Stiles said.
“If we decide not to pursue it, my assumption would be that it would go for sale,” Stiles said. The town board has until spring to give the school board a decision.
The school district has not pursued other buyers or listed the property for sale, because the town of Virgil would be its first choice, said Superintendent Robert Edwards at the Cortland Enlarged City School District. But if a private buyer were to purchase the school, the bond restrictions would be lifted.
“We’re not at the point of auction yet,” Edwards said. “We would prefer to see the building repurposed.”
Until the properties are purchased, the school district is responsible for maintaining the properties. Despite closing the schools for financial reasons, the buildings continue to cost taxpayers money and have been incorporated into the budget for the 2020 fiscal year, Edwards said.
“They’re still maintaining the schools and doing all of the same stuff before they closed the schools,” Stiles said. “I am still trying to wrap my head around what they’re saving if they’re still going to maintain the schools.”
For teachers like Jen Block, who worked at Virgil Elementary for two years, the closing of the school was not something she ever anticipated happening.
“It was talked about for years, but it was something that the community thought would never happen,” Block said. “When Virgil school opened, it was part of the deal that they would never close.”
The Virgil Elementary School teachers were moved to other schools when the Virgil school closed.
The town board will discuss the matter further at the March 11 town board meeting.