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Jefferson sale not done yet; more discussion coming

Differences over language in the Jefferson School purchase agreement was discussed during the Operations Committee meeting on July 8.

The Red Wing School Board chose Keller-Baartman Properties during the request for proposal process back in March and have been working together to finalize the purchase agreement.

However, differences over the green space usage and specialized schooling caused a discussion amongst the Operations Committee members.

PREVIOUSLY: Time to negotiate: Keller-Baartman’s bid accepted for Jefferson School

In the purchase agreement, Keller-Baartman say there are liability and safety concerns over opening up the entire green space to the public. In addition to that, the group says a redundancy in wording over specialized education is something they'd like changed as well.

Superintendent Karsten Anderson read off the two concerns in the purchase agreement during Monday's meeting. The purchase agreement is not public, but will become public when negotiating concludes.

Anderson said originally the district wanted the buyer to work with the city of Red Wing about allowing the public to use the Jefferson School playground and ballfield. A major reason why the board selected Keller-Baartman was for that exact reason after a number of community members spoke during public comment time about using the space.

In the request for proposal, Keller-Baartman said in their cover letter, "one of the many advantages of our proposal is that we will keep the current playground and layout of the outdoor area for neighborhood use," as read by Jackie Paradis of School Management Services.

Board member Jim Bryant said the wording should be changed to reflect their encouragement for Keller-Baartman to work with the city on keeping the green space open.

Keller-Baartman doesn't have anything that states they will close the green space entirely, but don't want the language used in the purchase agreement, according to Paradis.

Keller-Baartman has stated that turning the Jefferson School site into a daycare center is their goal.

As part of that, the building would likely be used for pre-K, summer and specialized instruction.

However, the language that states Keller-Baartman would need permission from the district to allow such instruction was called redundant, saying the clause already has a place where they are allowed to do that.

The concern, according to Anderson, is there could be a charter school, dance magnet school, or something more specific put in the building.

The committee decided to send a suggestion back to the district's attorney about adding generalized or specialized education instruction to the clause.

Board Chair Arlen Diercks said he doesn't want the district to go through another request for proposal process and believes these changes are the best for everyone involved.

If the changes aren't agreed upon, Bryant said the decision should go back to the board to decide whether they want to proceed with the deal.

The School Board will likely discuss the matter at the July 15 meeting.

Matthew Lambert

Matthew Lambert joined the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2018 covering school board, public safety, and writing features. Lambert previously wrote for the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal. He is a graduate of Winona State University with a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication: Journalism. 

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