Twin Hills Union School District has won the coveted lease of the Pine Crest Elementary School campus in Sebastopol in a deal that has sparked acrimony between school officials in neighboring school districts.
The deal, inked early Friday following a special meeting called by the Sebastopol School Board, leases 12 of 18 classrooms at Sebastopol School District's 11-acre Pine Crest Elementary School campus on Hayden Avenue to Sunridge Charter School for $165,000 a year for three years.
The Sebastopol Independent Charter School, a 270-student Waldorf-inspired school chartered by the Sebastopol School District, had been in negotiations for the same property last spring. The charter school offered a three-year deal for the whole campus for $120,000 a year, or a three-year lease with nine-year option for approximately $155,000 a year.
But talks broke off in May after the charter school pressed for the longer term lease or possible purchase. Sebastopol school district wanted a short-term agreement while also keeping the property available for wider community uses such as youth sports.
The Twin Hills district approached Sebastopol school district with a proposal to rent a large portion of the campus for three years, while allowing community groups to continue to use the multipurpose room, fields and other facilities.
"The offer from Twin Hills was solid. It was a good offer under any circumstances, whether it was up against anything else or not," said Liz Schott, superintendent of Sebastopol School District.
The deal is the culmination of months of sometimes contentious debate over whether Sebastopol should have agreed to lease the property to the independent school that it charters, instead of inking a deal with another Waldorf-inspired charter school that operates in affiliation with the Twin Hills School District.
"I'm not so sure the district looked at all the tangibles and intangibles," said Susan Olson, executive director of the independent charter school. "Sunridge has stated that they want to move to Pine Crest with the express interest of expanding enrollment. I'm not sure where those students will come from."
Sunridge, the Twin Hills district school, currently has slightly fewer than 200 students and could grow to 220-230 at the new site, according to Twin Hills Superintendent Les Crawford.
Sebastopol Independent Charter currently houses its kindergarten through second-graders in facilities in the district's Brook Haven School campus and its third- through eighth-graders in a school-owned building on South Main Street.
Olson said the school is not interested in getting any larger but has long wanted to consolidate its campuses.
Meantime, Sebastopol School District has seen its enrollment fall from 1,400 to 700 in the past 15 years and last spring closed Pine Crest.
Now the Sebastopol District, its independent charter and Twin Hills' charter are left to iron out where students will be housed next fall.
Sunridge, currently housed on two acres on Watertrough Road, has leased 12 of 18 classrooms and has access to all campus facilities such as playgrounds, fields, library and multipurpose room.
Crawford said the deal enables Sunridge students to be housed in larger classrooms while potentially using the Watertrough Road property as an organic farm and environmental sciences space.
Sebastopol currently rents space at Pine Crest to Reach School, a 63-student charter school which is also affiliated with the district, for $30,000 a year.