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Beasley to be site of early childhood center

The future of the vacant St. John's Elementary School building is undetermined, but no more questions surround the location of a yet-to-be constructed early childhood center.

Mehlville Board of Education members last week unanimously approved the Beasley Elementary School campus as the site for a new early childhood center — the final project of the Proposition P districtwide building improvement program.

Administrators and board members touted benefits of the Beasley site during a Feb. 24 board meeting.

"What can be done is that building can be nestled in there, if you will, and still keep the greenery and the natural surroundings," Superintendent Tim Ricker told board members, also noting that he had been approached by a local university interested in starting an early childhood partnership with the new center because of its proximity to an elementary school.

"I like that the children can go outside and play," board member Rita Diekemper said.

St. John's Elementary School, near the corner of Will Avenue and Lemay Ferry Road, originally was scheduled to be the site for a new early childhood center.

However, administrators announced during a Proposition P Oversight Committee meeting Nov. 25 that constructing a school on that site would raise safety, access and aesthetic concerns.

Voters in November 2000 approved Proposition P, a nearly $68.4 million bond issue funded by a 49-cent tax-rate increase.

However, the Board of Education last September adopted a revised Proposition P budget totaling more than $86.7 million.

In formulating a facilities master plan in 2000, the district's Citizens' Advisory Committee for Facilities recommended that St. John's Elementary School be razed and a new early childhood center be constructed on the Will Avenue site.

But administrators in November informed Oversight Committee members of budgetary, site-development, access, safety and aesthetic concerns regarding the St. John's site.

Though concerns about the site were reported to the Oversight Committee Nov. 25, the Board of Education had voted in closed session Nov. 17 to begin negotiations with the Lechner Realty Group for a listing agreement for the St. John's site.

During a closed session Dec. 15, the board voted to approve a 90-day exclusive listing contract with Lechner Realty for the St. John's site.

At the Oversight Committee's request for public input, administrators conducted an informational meeting in February, informing the public of several options, which included:

• Using the St. John's site, which would cost the district $470,000 in site development costs of the building's $2.626 million budget.

• Constructing the site on the Mehlville Senior High School campus, costing the district $1.275 million in site development.

• Building the early childhood center on the Beasley Elementary School campus, which would cost the district $365,000 in site development.

• Purchasing additional land for the district.

In Oversight Committee Chairman Chuck Van Gronigen's absence last week, South Area Superintendent Keith Klusmeyer reported that the Oversight Committee recommended Feb. 18 that board members approve the site, and comment sheets from the informational meeting revealed that, based on the four options, the majority of those who attended the meeting preferred the Beasley site to any of the other alternatives.

Now vacant, the only use planned for the St. John's building will be summer storage, Ricker told the Call.

"It's still on the market," he said, noting that the district has received offers on the building, but none have been accepted.

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