District accepting lease bids for Kettler site

The Huntington Beach City School District is offering to lease the former site of Kettler Elementary School in an attempt to bring in funds after years of budget cuts.

The district will accept bids for the site, which closed in 2005, at its regular board meeting Feb. 15. Written bids are due at 6:30 p.m., a half hour before the meeting begins, and will be opened during the meeting.

Jon Archibald, the district's assistant superintendent of administrative services, said audience members may make oral bids as long as they are at least 5% higher than the highest bid submitted in writing.

The lease would cover five years, with options to renew for three additional five-year terms, and go for a minimum $250,970.40 annually, Archibald said. He noted that the lessee could make alterations to the building if the district approved them.

"Someone could use it for office space," Archibald said. "A church could use it. There's a variety of options."

The district closed Kettler at 8750 Dorsett Drive due to declining enrollment and a need to cut $2 million in costs. Students were diverted to Smith, Eader and Peterson elementary schools.

Shortly before Kettler closed, it was modernized along with other campuses in the district, leaving it mostly in good condition, Archibald said. The district will retain ownership of the building and may use it as a school again in the future.

"Right now, the board is kind of keeping that building in reserve in case there's any increase in enrollment that would exceed the capacity we have now," Archibald said.

In recent years, the district has made many cuts to staff and services, implemented furlough days and increased class sizes in the lower grades. School board members Catherine McGough and Celia Jaffe said they would welcome the revenue from Kettler, but admitted that it would only cover a small part of the district's needs.

The board would have to vote on where to allot the funds, McGough said.

"We've had 20% of our budget cut, if not more, over the years," she said. "There's a million places to put it."

The site has gone unused since Kettler closed six years ago. Administrators considered moving the district offices there and watched enrollment projections to see if another school would be needed, but no plans came to fruition, McGough said.

She added that she couldn't speculate on how many parties would bid on the property.

"I hear mixed reviews out there," McGough said. "I hear the economy is picking up and there are people looking for something. I hear the economy is stagnant. I think we're very curious what the response will be."

The meeting will be at the district headquarters at 20451 Craimer Lane, Huntington Beach.

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