Fairfield schools 32-acre land deal: What does it mean for the district’s future?

Fairfield Twp. and Fairfield City School officials this week confirmed they are working on a deal in which one of southwest Ohio’s largest school districts would acquire 32 acres of undeveloped land.

The tract is along the developing Gilmore Road corridor, where the township has built a new fire station, is considering constructing a new service building and is the site of StoryPoint, a rehabilitation facility nearing completion. The road will also be widened next year, and a roundabout at Gilmore and Hamilton-Mason Road that is now under construction.

About 20 percent of the township is still undeveloped, which provides an opportunity for the large school district

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Fairfield draws students from both the city of Fairfield and Fairfield Twp. In recent years, Fairfield Schools’ total enrollment of 10,000 students has remained stable, but the township is where the district can grow. The city of Fairfield is essentially built out.

The township purchased 54 acres of land from Graceworks Lutheran Services, and earlier this year completed its new fire station on a portion of that property. The township owns more than 40 acres of the former Graceworks property. On Wednesday, trustees approved the transfer of 32 acres to the township’s Community Improvement Corporation, a move needed to sell the property to the school district.

Fairfield Twp. Trustee President Shannon Hartkemeyer said township officials are looking toward the future, and the transaction “is another example of us setting a foundation for Fairfield Twp.’s growth.”

“This is something that can help both Fairfield City Schools and Fairfield Twp.,” she said. “This is a great chance for Fairfield City Schools to expand its footprint into this area. I believe this is an area they have considered in the past for building a school, and clearly, the township would love to have another school to address our growing population.”

When the next census numbers are released, either in late 2020 and early 2021, township officials anticipate a big jump in Fairfield Twp.’s population count. Its estimated population is 22,634, which is about 6 percent over the 2010 Census count of 21,373, and hundreds of homes have been built in the past decade.

The township’s largest residential increase was from the 1990 to 2000 U.S. Census when it grew by 61.4 percent. It grew another 37.3 percent from 2000 to 2010d.

There are 11 schools in the district, but only two of them — Fairfield East and Fairfield North elementary schools — are located in the township.

The school district has addressed its growth within the city of Fairfield in recent years. In 2017, Fairfield Schools opened three new, larger schools at the beginning of that school year.

That September, the district opened a new Central Elementary, Compass Elementary and Fairfield Freshman School to replace aging school buildings.

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Fairfield and Fairfield Twp. residents approved a tax hike in 2014 to pay for most of the $80 million cost of three new schools, with the state school facilities fund paying the rest.

What the schools will do with the land is uncertain.

“While the district has no immediate plans for building another school building, I can confirm that the schools are in negotiations with Township officials to purchase land,” said school board President Michael Berding. “As you may know, large parcels of real estate are difficult to acquire in our growing community, and this purchase would help the schools if the need to expand should ever arise.”

The project has been several months in the making, said Trustee Joe McAbee.

“This deal benefits the entire Fairfield community, both city and township,” he said. “We were able to protect the entire community by saving the land necessary to expand our schools’ buildings to meet the current and future student enrollment.”

Fairfield Superintendent Billy Smith plans to present information about the proposed purchase to the school board at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 5.

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