Maria Goodloe-Johnson, Despite Budget Shortfall, Favors Community Spirit Over Cash in Selling Martin Luther King Elementary

Martin Luther King Elementary protest.JPG
The Seattle School District, projecting a $32.8 million budget gap for the next school year, is as strapped for cash as every other public entity these days. So you might think that the district would get as much money as it possibly can later this year when it unloads the old Martin Luther Elementary building. Instead, Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson will recommend to the school board tonight that the district hand over the building to a church offering less than half of the highest bid.

The Bush School, the tony private school in the Madison Valley, was willing to pay $5.6 million for a 99-year lease, according to a document submitted to the board (see pdf of recommendation on Martin Luther King Elementary). Bush had wanted the extra space for athletic fields.

Some neighbors objected, saying that the old elementary ought to be used for something that benefited the entire community, even if it meant less money for the district. That's precisely the kind of thinking that school activists urged the district to reject several years ago, when the district was facing yet another budget shortfall.

Nevertheless, Goodloe-Johnson is now proposing that the district sell its vacated school for just $2.4 million to the First AME Church, a longtime Central Area institution. The church sweetened its bid, the superintendent explained in the document before the board, by saying it would host "youth education activities, including free access to the gym and auditorium for eight hours a day for at least 40 years."

The board will decide whether that's good enough on October 20.

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