The Tustin Unified School District will ask the state Department of Education for approval to seek potential buyers of a surplus school site without going through the state-mandated bidding process.
The school board voted 3 to 1 Monday to ask the state for a waiver that will allow the district to sell the 10-acre Red Hill school site, closed as an elementary school since 1982, by negotiating directly with potential buyers.
Trustee Jane Bauer opposed the move, echoing the concern of several parents who said that the site may be needed in the future as the district’s enrollment grows. Trustee Gloria Matta Tuchman was absent.
“If we don’t get the right price, we won’t sell,” said Supt. David L. Andrews, who argued for the sale to finance the opening of a middle school in 1994-95.
Andrews said it will take about a month to prepare and submit the waiver application. The approval could take another month or two.
The site is at 11911 Red Hill Ave. and is one of five district properties a citizens panel identified as surplus to be sold or leased.
In June, the district unsuccessfully offered the property for sale, soliciting bids at a minimum of $2.9 million.
Instead of going through another bidding process, Andrews said that the district must now talk directly with potential buyers. But state law requires that public properties be sold through competitive bidding, unless a waiver is granted, Andrews said.
However, parents at Monday’s meeting said there is a danger that the property may be sold at below market price to attract potential buyers.
“This is a desperate act,” said resident Neil Harkleroad. “There is no need to rush the sale at a giveaway price.”
District officials said the property was appraised at $2.9 million by a real estate appraiser, Parkcenter Realty Advisers, which was hired by the district before putting the property up to bid.
In addition to Red Hill, the district has also declared as surplus the Guin Foss school site at 18492 Vanderlip Ave. and the district’s administration center on 300 South C St.
Residents near Guin Foss school, which was closed 15 years ago and is now used for adult education classes, are also urging the district to not sell the property. So far, the district has not acted to sell or lease it.
Andrews said part of the money from the sale of Red Hill school will be used to renovate the Columbus Tustin campus on Beneta Way, which the district hopes to open next school year as the district’s fourth middle school.