Four Cortland school board members — a majority of the seven-member panel — told Superintendent Bob Edwards on Tuesday to seek buyers for the former Virgil Elementary School to put their proposals on a spring ballot.
School district voters defeated a proposal last month to sell the building, 228-269. However, board member Gene Waldbauer noted that the bulk of the opposition came from a Virgil polling place, where the tally was 41-178.
If a new school sale proposal was placed on the May 17 budget — when voters across the state decide school budgets — more voters would likely turn out and a sale proposal could pass, Waldbauer said.
“I think we just can’t afford it,” he said. “I think we need to continue to try to sell it.”
Edwards asked the board members during the discussion section of the meeting what they would like to do next. He noted that several interested parties have already contacted the district’s real estate agent.
The board did not vote, but members Waldbauer, Lauren Mossotti-Kline, Janet Griffin and Christine Gregory said they want Edwards to continue to work with the agent to sell the building.
Board member Lori Megivern of Virgil spoke against selling the building and suggested the board speak with experts about starting a specialty school that offers an alternative learning style.
The building needs few repairs and a specialty school could attract young families, Megivern said.
“I think you could draw a lot of people,” she said. “It’s in the best shape of all our elementary buildings.”
Mossotti-Kline, also a Virgil resident, said town residents have not asked her if the school could be reopened, but have expressed concern about the type of redevelopment it could attract.
“I personally was disappointed that the town did not rally together like the Parker (school) task force did,” Mossotti-Kline said.
District voters approved in June a plan to sell the former Parker Elementary School to the city of Cortland for $91, by a vote of 2,196-588, for use as a child-care center. The Parker school closed in the spring of 2019.
Virgil Elementary also closed in July 2019 and the defeated proposal would have sold the building for $360,000 to Evan Souzas, who owns The Community Restaurant on Main Street in Cortland and several buildings in the city.
Souzas planned to convert the building into market-rate apartments, which traditionally attract retirees, young professionals and small families.
Souzas estimated rents would be $850 a month for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,000 for a two-bedroom apartment.