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Pinellas trying to sell Southside Fundamental site to charter school



The Pinellas County school board is in the process of selling the shuttered Southside Fundamental Middle School to a new charter school network. But they still have to decide on a price, something both the board and University Preparatory Academies had planned to but did not have set by a Tuesday workshop.

University Prep is hoping to open the K-8 school this fall in the St. Petersburg location. University Prep founder Cheri Shannon told Gradebook that the charter school network won a $3.5 million Race to the Top grant yesterday, which it hopes to also use toward future sites in Hillsborough and Broward counties.

The Pinellas school board was scheduled to discuss the contract for selling Southside on Tuesday, but hit a bit of a snag: School board attorney David Koperski said he did not receive a written offer from University Prep until Monday night.

In addition to timing, there was the issue of the amount of the sale. University Prep offered to buy the former Southside site for $700,000, a sum they told him was well above the appraisal they'd received for the property. But the school system's own appraisers put the land at $775,000. With the building (as is), the appraisal is well over $1 million. Koperski said it was possible that University Prep was planning to tear down the old Southside building, and was factoring the cost of the demolition into their estimate.

While the sale is not a done deal, it's certainly the goal of both the board and University Prep. After the school board workshop, board member Peggy O'Shea and Shannon casually discussed whether the charter school would use just one floor or the whole school when it initially opens.

Shannon had apologized to the school board for the late offer, explaining that the appraiser was late in delivering an estimate.

In January 2009, the school board announced that it would close the 82-year-old Southside due to dwindling enrollment, budget cuts and the age of the building. Seven more Pinellas schools were also closed that spring.

[Last modified: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 3:49pm]


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