Fairfield schools eyeing possible growth with $1.3M land purchase from township

The Fairfield school system will expand by 32 acres after the school board approved a $1.3 million purchase of land offered by Fairfield Twp.

The site, located at the northwest corner of Hamilton-Mason Road and Gilmore Road, is not the focus of any immediate plans to add a school.School officials said the purchase is an opportunity to acquire prime real estate at less-than-market-value price.

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“It allows the district to have a plan in place if and when it decides to consider new buildings, configurations, etc.,” said Fairfield Superintendent Billy Smith.

And Smith described the purchase, which amounted to $40,000 per acre on a site already possessing sewer lines, as “the opportunity to purchase property at a reasonable price,” noting similar land in the area is selling for more than $65,000 per acre.

Fairfield Twp officials and the Community Improvement Corporation put the offer together and have approved their part of the purchase prior to the board’s vote, which was 4-0, with Jerrilynn Gundrum absent.

The $1.3 million will come from an existing permanent improvement bond, approved by Fairfield school voters in 2014 and allowed under Ohio school law to be used for purchases lasting more than five years.

The annual operating budget for Fairfield Schools is $98 million.

The purchase does not involve any increase in school taxes for residents.

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Fairfield school officials pointed out the purchase strategy is similar to the buying of land in the late 1990s that is now the site of Compass Elementary, which opened in 2017. That site on Holden Boulevard was part of the original land purchase that led to the building of Fairfield Senior High School across the street of what is now the Compass school campus.

In 2017 the 10,000-student Fairfield district also opened another new elementary school, Central Elementary, and a new freshman school.

Smith repeatedly emphasized the district has no immediate plans to build a new school on the 32 acres it now owns. But, said Smith, “it is also noteworthy to mention that several of our elementary schools are very close to capacity, if not there.”

“And over the last several years, the district has had to create additional classroom space in buildings. However, these statements do not mean the district plans to build a building there,” he said.

Fairfield Board of Education President Michael Berding said, “I’m very grateful … that the (township) trustees thought of the school system when they were looking for potential partners to purchase their property.”

“It’s a very fair price and it definitely gives us options, whatever the community wants us to do with it. It’s much easier to have the land and then figure what you are going to do with it than figure out we need to do something and then try to find someplace to do it,” said Berding.

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