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Aurora school board will decide what to do with empty buildings

An APS charter school said it wants to buy Paris Elementary, but the district wants to sell it to a developer.

AURORA, Colo. — Tuesday is Aurora's turn to make a choice in a dilemma facing school districts across the metro area. After a monthslong process, the Board of Education will decide what to do with empty buildings closed because their schools didn't have enough kids.

One option is to sell the buildings to charter schools that are searching for homes. 

Vanguard Classical School's West campus is one such charter within the Aurora Public Schools system. 

"We want to keep this school within APS, and we feel like we’re the perfect partner, we’re the perfect match for it," Vanguard Executive Director Jay Cerny said.

The school currently pays about $1 million a year to rent a space that Cerny said isn't adequate for the school's needs. It leaks, lacks office space and only has a small outside play lot. 

He said Vanguard needs a new space, but finding one suitable for a school is tough. 

"You just can’t go anywhere," Cerny said. "When you have a surplus building, it’s so much easier to take that over as a school."

Vanguard offered about $7 million to buy the empty Paris Elementary from the district. 

"It is perfect," he said.

But perfect depends on who you ask. Aurora administrators said community surveys show people prefer affordable housing to helping out a charter school. The district recommended the school board sell the land to a developer for $15 million.

An APS spokesperson said the developer's plans "would provide support to overcome trauma, incarceration, mental illness, poverty, and other issues inclusive of the following: affordable and supportive housing units for families experiencing homelessness, workforce housing for APS educators and staff, and neighborhood-serving retail."

Cerny hopes the school board bucks that recommendation and decides to keep the building as an educational institution instead. If it doesn't, he'll have to go back to the drawing board to find a place for his school. 

"We will scratch our head and we will get back to work. We need a suitable location for our students," he said.

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