Lawton Public Schools has sold two more of its former school sites, earning the district another $125,000 while clearing the backlog of unused buildings.
The Lawton Board of Education voted Tuesday to approve contracts for the sale of Swinney Elementary School, 1431 NW 23rd, for $100,000 and Wilson Elementary, 102 NW 17th, for $25,000. Cummins-Setters Commercial Partners LLC had listed both properties for sale last year, along with three other former schools that already sold.
According to the terms of the contracts, Swinney Elementary was purchased by Qing Guo and Jun Xie, while Mark Cox purchased Wilson Elementary. Officials did not indicate the new uses for the schools.
Superintendent Kevin Hime confirmed the two were the last empty school sites to sell, although the district still has a 24.25-acre tract on Northwest 52nd Street, north of Quanah Parker Trailway, for sale, along with a smaller piece of property in west Lawton’s Wyatt Acres.
The decision leaves Lawton Public Schools with 25 active school sites: three high school, four middle school (although the district will transition Tomlinson Middle School to a Life Ready Center next school year), 17 elementary schools and one early childhood development center.
Swinney and Wilson were among four elementary schools closed at the end of the 2014-2015 school year. At the time, district officials said the decision was based on the age of the deteriorating structures, as well as low student enrollments that didn’t make it feasible to keep them open. Park Lane Elementary, another one of those four sites, was sold by the district last year to Otra Vez, a firm based in Nevada. All three schools are located in residential areas.
Swinney, built in north Lawton in 1962 and originally listed for $270,000, is located on a 3.5-acre tract and features a 25,240 square foot building with a 3,740-square-foot freestanding gymnasium. Wilson, located on a 2.75-acre tract, contains a 21,446-square-foot building that has deteriorated to the point that Lawton Public Schools discussed plans in 2019 to demolish it after engineers said repairs weren’t economically feasible. A report by Architects in Partnership said the structure, built between 1930 and 1940, already had structural problems that were compounded by leaks that occurred after the building closed.
District officials said disposing of sites no longer used as schools will allow Lawton Public Schools to focus on existing — and used — sites.
While the district has two schools that are not being used for in-person classes this school year, Adams Elementary and Washington Elementary are housing teaching “pods,” teachers who are conducting virtual learning for elementary, middle and high school students.
Hime said indications are Adams and Washington will continue to serve those functions in the 2021-202 school year because student enrollment remains small. In-person enrollment was so low at both schools this school year that LPS administrators opted to transfer those students to nearby schools. While district leadership is trying to recruit students to both schools, “it’s not high enough yet,” Hime said, adding district administrators will revisit the issue next year.
But, the buildings will remain in use because he is determined LPS will not close any buildings and walk away.
“So, we’ll repurpose,” he said.
That decision already helped LPS head off a problem. After February’s arctic blast broke waterlines that flooded Edison Elementary, most of its in-person students and their teachers were moved to Adams Elementary to finish the school year, while virtual teachers at Adams were moved to Washington Elementary.
“We need to re-evaluate each year and be flexible,” Hime said.
In another building issue, the school board unanimously accepted a staff recommendation to buy 609 SW Park from owner Brian K. Abasta for $32,000.
The deteriorating structures on that property, built in the early 1900s, set on the western edge of Lincoln Elementary School property. Lynn Cordes, executive director of communications for Lawton Public Schools, said the structures will be removed and the land incorporated into Lincoln Elementary, where district officials are doing an extensive renovation project designed to make the building safer on the inside by restoring visitor access to the front entrance along Southwest 6th Street. Renovations also are under way outside the school, as part of the district’s Curbside Appeal project.