Will school land be sold?

No, say school officials of rumors that property near Sakai will go.

A quiet stream bisects the ravine behind Sakai Intermediate School.

Save for schoolchildren trudging down the hillside to study salmon habitat there, the land is little used.

But not unlike the whispering water, rumors about the fate of the property recently ran through community tributaries, much to the surprise of those at the school district who say no property sale is imminent.

“No one has made any plans to do anything with the land,” said Bruce Weiland, vice-president of the school board and member of the capital facilities committee.

“We’re simply looking at it as we do with all of our assets to determine if it’s being best-used for our ultimate purpose, which is educating students.”

Weiland said an announcement will be made at this week’s school board meeting to alleviate concern among those who fear the district will sell the land without first consulting the public.

Sakai sits on 67 acres that were purchased in 1992.

The parcel in question is mostly hillside with a few flat areas, and would not be adequate to accommodate another school.

Weiland, fellow board member Cheryl Dale and chair of the city’s 2025 Committee Patty Fielding have all heard the rumblings.

Dale said the Sakai land was mentioned as an asset at a meeting last year when the district was considering how to approach the bond issue.

“Evaluating our assets is something we try do regularly,” she said, “especially with fewer and fewer big parcels available on the island.”

She mentioned other district-owned land on Mandus Olson Road and Sands Avenue, as well as first right of refusal on property that houses Bainbridge Island Tele­vision should current owner AT&T choose to sell.

The Sands Avenue project in particular, she said, is a good example of how the district manages its land assets.

The district purchased land there a few years ago as a potential school site.

It later partnered with the park district to the build ball fields that currently occupy the property.

Dale said the option still remains to build a school in the surrounding woodland, which the district also owns, should the need arise. The ball fields would then become part of the school’s play area.

Maintenance and transportation facilities, she said, are also needs the district considers when determining how to utilize its resources.

But like Weiland, Dale said nothing immediate was in the works at Sakai, nor would anything happen without community input.

“We’re also aware of increasing property values,” she said. “The longer we hold onto land, the more valuable it becomes.”

Fielding said she heard of the possible sale from a variety of people. As chair of the 2025 Committee, one of her goals is to “preserve the island’s character,” especially open green spaces, a limited resource.

She hopes the district will involve the public in any future land sale, but also added that larger issues about public land ownership should also be addressed.

“It’s not a matter of explaining the logic in selling the land,” Fielding said. “For me that’s not the issue. The question is a philosophical one – is the land owned by the school district or the public – this is a good time for that discussion.”

In any case, Weiland said, Thursday’s announcement will hopefully put to rest worries about an unchecked fire-sale of district land.

“We’re just trying to consider options,” he said. “Clearly we would not sell without first going to the public.”

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