The Langley Middle School survey results are in, and the ideas are great.
We love the concept of a community center, and an arts district is cool too. But these all sound like very long-term arrangements and we have serious reservations about school district’s becoming permanent landlords. Their job is to educate, not manage lease agreements and certainly not to guide the fate or development of key pieces of property.
The school board voted to close Langley Middle School in January after a comprehensive outreach process. The board and district leaders did consider selling the middle school property but rejected the idea for reasons ranging from constituent wishes to financial considerations; they say the one-time revenue gain isn’t worth losing such a valuable piece of real estate when replacing the property later on would cost taxpayers much more.
These are all valid considerations in our eyes, but only if the school district really has plans to reopen the school sometime in the future. That doesn’t seem to be the case when it’s entertaining long-term uses of the facility.
State law does allow school districts to rent out unused property, but it can’t be altered in a way that wouldn’t allow the district to reopen the facility for educational purposes. This exemption is clearly intended to give school districts leeway when long-term plans are uncertain, not function as a loophole for shepherding development or generating revenue.
With so much school district property now under lease — land and buildings are also rented in Bayview and at the primary school — the school board should step back and reconsider its role as educators. The ideas for LMS are all stellar, but if the district isn’t really planning to reopen the school sometime in the near future then it should step out of the way, allow administrators to focus on education and let another and more appropriate entity guide the middle school property’s future.