The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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March 5, 2011

Old Washington Elementary sold to local land developer

ASHTABULA — A local land developer entered a contract to buy a big old school Friday.

Northeast Ohio Development Co., owned by Ronald Kister of Ashtabula, will become the new owner of the former Washington Elementary School, 917 Lake Ave., said Joseph Donatone, Ashtabula Area City Schools superintendent.

“I bought it to make sure no low-income housing goes in there,” Kister said. “We have to stop that.”

Kister was the only bidder at a public auction held in the school board’s conference room at Lakeside Intermediate School.

“I’m pleased,” Donatone said, noting the district expects to close the deal July 1.

Kister said he has no immediate plans for the property, other than to make sure it will benefit, not blight, the community in the future.

The school closed two years ago as part of the district’s budget cuts. One of the oldest district schools, it was appraised at $150,000. Bids for less than that amount would have been rejected, Donatone said. The building will be sold for $150,000 “as is.” The property may contain asbestos or other hazards, which the buyer will have to remediate.

The school board members voted unanimously to sell the school late last year.

In February 2009, the school board voted 4-1 to close Washington and Thurgood Marshall elementary schools. The decision came after Donatone and the board discussed whether to place a 4.9-mill tax levy on the May 2009 ballot, or reduce staff and close the two elementary schools in fall 2009. The board did not secure the four votes needed to place the levy on the ballot. Board members David Sheldon and Steve Candela cast the no votes. Consequently, the board closed the schools and reduced staffing. Sheldon later resigned from the board, citing a conflict with his job as a city magistrate.

Donatone’s proposal included closing Washington and Thurgood Marshall elementary schools and moving fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders from Washington and Thurgood Marshall schools, as well as State, McKinsey and Thomas Jefferson elementary schools, into what had been Lakeside Junior High School on West 44th Street. The board went with Donatone’s proposal, and the former junior high now is called Lakeside Intermediate School.

In fall 2011, three of the new campus-style elementary schools on Wade Avenue will open.

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