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CMS Offers Tours Of Schools Up For Rent

Possible renters of Double Oaks Elementary tour the school align=left

Eleven schools are closing in two months. It's part of the board's controversial decision in November to save $4 to $6 million. Now, CMS is looking to lease some of those facilities. Prospective tenants are getting tours this week, while kids are away on spring break. Double Oaks Pre-k Center is just north of uptown. It was built in the 1940s as an elementary school and has classrooms that open onto breezeways. The school is equipped like a school for little kids should be. It has small toilets, designated cozy areas, sinks in each classroom and some neat learning toys. A few on the tour are admiring one geared for autistic kids. CMS already leases a few buildings to non-profits and charter schools, but nothing on this scale. If the school board votes to end the district's Bright Beginnings program, Double Oaks will be one of the schools put up for rent. The district has received interest from several organizations that deal with children like counseling groups, but also churches and other government agencies. The Double Oaks tour has attracted two groups. There are representatives of a school for kids in pre-k through eighth grade. They wouldn't identify themselves and Bethlehem Learning Center. It operates CMS's Head Start Program for pre-kindergartners. Bethlehem's assistant director, Shantel Mitchell jots notes in a polka dot notebook. She says the building would need a few improvements. "We have to have the exit signs lit up and labeled and we noticed they didn't have those, which is not a problem because we can add those," says Mitchell. But she notes the tricycle route is definitely a plus. Bethlehem Learning Center is interested because it would like to consolidate some of their locations into a larger facility. CMS facilities director Dennis LaCaria doesn't expect the district will make a lot of money from renting the schools. "If there's a really phenomenal use that is just going to be an outstanding benefit to the community and they can't afford a huge lease payment, we're certainly going to consider all those things and not necessarily focus on the amount of rent someone's able to pay to us, but the benefit to the community," says LaCaria. Plus, if the schools remain vacant, CMS would still have to pay for maintenance like lawn care and pest control. The district is accepting bids through May 13th.