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TUSTIN : Buyer Finally Found for Red Hill School

August 31, 1994|BERT ELJERA

A buyer has finally been found for the closed Red Hill Elementary School, which the Tustin Unified School District has been trying to sell since last year.

Greystone Homes, a Delaware company that develops real estate in California, has agreed to buy the 10-acre property for more than $3 million and is planning to build 24 homes on the site, officials said.

School district trustees approved the sale by a 4-1 vote Monday, ending public debate over whether the school, which was closed in June, 1982, should be sold to generate money to improve other schools in the district.

Residents, particularly from North Tustin, have protested the sale of the school site, arguing that because of the school district's growing enrollment, it would be needed someday.

In addition, they said that selling the property in a down real estate market is a bad idea.

"It makes more sense to hang on" to the property, said Mark Bucher, one of about two dozen parents who attended Monday's school board meeting. "You will get considerably more in the next few years."

Trustee Jane Bauer, who cast the dissenting vote, said that the sale should not go through because incomplete enrollment data was provided to the school board when it made the decision to sell in June.

She said that contrary to earlier projections, 7,700 kindergarten to fifth-grade students are expected for the 1997-98 school year. That is about 1,400 more than anticipated and will make at least one more elementary school necessary, she said.

"This information was not used in the decision-making process," Bauer said.

The school district, which is expecting more than 12,800 students for the school year that starts next month, has 10 elementary schools, three middle schools and three high schools.

Some of the money from the sale will be used to complete the renovation of Columbus Tustin Middle School, which is reopening next month at its old campus on Beneta Way to become the school district's fourth middle school.

"As long as we hold on to our surplus properties, we will not receive state money to refurbish our schools," said school board member Nancy Cast, because state law requires school districts to sell off properties they no longer need before they can apply for state funding for school improvements.

The state Department of Education allowed the Tustin school district to sell the Red Hill school site directly to a developer after efforts to sell the property through competitive bids failed.

In June, school district officials tried to auction off the school site for a minimum bid of $2.9 million. There were no takers.

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