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CUSD approves waiver to ease sale of La Puerta

CUSD board approved a negotiated sale waiver for the La Puerta property and purchase of permanent classrooms for elementary schools.

The Claremont Unified School District’s October 19 meeting saw the board of education greenlight two property-related requests from the district.

First, the school board approved a motion to file a waiver with the state that would allow CUSD to engage in a negotiated sale for 9.7 acres of land at 2475 N. Forbes Ave, the site of the La Puerta Intermediate School until 1978.

If the board receives approval from the state for a negotiated sale—which is nearly guaranteed, according to assistant superintendent of business services Lisa Shoemaker—it will be able to sell the property to a bidder whose proposal is likely to be approved by nearby neighbors and the Claremont City Council.

Previously, the board was constrained to selling property to the highest bidder. Both times they tried to sell it, the winning projects were blocked by Claremont residents and the council.      

In 2013, Brandywine Homes purchased the land for $19 million, but their plan to build houses was not approved, and they backed out. In 2015, Claremont Lincoln University, an online graduate school, beat out other bidders with a $14.4 million offer, but pulled out after surveying local residents.

“I am disappointed in losing this deal,” Mr. Elsasser told the COURIER after the CLU deal fell through. “We need the sale of the property to take those one-time revenues and put them into improving our facilities. We have tremendous facility needs in this district.”

Now, though, the district hopes to weed out bidders who are unlikely to be successful.

“If there are 30 interested parties, 20 of which hope to build 80 homes on that property, even though they may be willing to bid a sufficient amount of funds for the property, we know that those projects are highly unlikely to come to fruition,” Ms. Shoemaker told the board. “And so we would not be required to accept those bids—we could negotiate a sale with somebody else who has the most potential for actually closing the sale for the property based on their proposed property.”

The board also authorized the purchase of modular classrooms—permanent structures built off-site—to replace the old portable buildings that are currently being used by the district’s elementary schools and El Roble Intermediate School.

The portables have a 15-year lifespan but have been in use for 20 to 30 years and are in a state of “ancient disrepair,” Ms. Shoemaker said.

The district will engage in a piggyback bid, meaning they can “take advantage of existing pricing” already determined by a different party’s bidding for the buildings, Ms. Shoemaker told the board.

“It’s not only good economics, but it’s also timely,” she said.

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For six weeks, Claremont Graduate University is hosting 22 middle and high school teachers from countries as varied as Algeria, Bolivia, Estonia, Iraq and Uzbekistan as part of the Teaching Excellence and Achievement Program, which helps teachers “develop expertise in their teaching subject areas, enhance their teaching skills and increase their knowledge of the United States of America,” district superintendent Jim Elsasser said.

DeLacy Ganley, CGU’s director of teacher education, introduced each teacher individually and explained the program. Ms. Ganley said the teachers take classes at CGU, are paired with partner teachers in the school district and present about their home country to elementary school students.

“The TEA program is based in the idea that the best diplomacy tool is getting to know somebody from another country,” she said. “It helps you care about the world in a different way.”

—Kellen Browning