by ALEXANDRA RETTER
The St. Charles School District recently purchased about 90 acres of land next to the St. Charles High School for $930,000. The district bought the land to give itself room to grow in case more facilities are necessary down the road and to keep any future buildings near the current school, St. Charles School District Superintendent Jeff Apse said.
Apse said he does not yet have a sense of when the district might move toward building on the land. “We looked at this as an investment for the future of our schools,” he said. He continued, “Our [School] Board realized with purchasing this land, it may be into the future until the need presents itself to build buildings on the land. But this at least provides either our current board or future boards the opportunity to make those decisions when they’re necessary.”
Enrollment is one factor that influences whether a district needs new
buildings. The St. Charles School District’s enrollment increased slightly over the last five years by 32 students overall, growing from 972 students in 2016-2017 to 1,004 students in 2020-2021. The district has not lost students despite the pandemic, Apse said. The district has experienced an enrollment uptick from last year to this year of 12 students and anticipates that enrollment will grow slowly and steadily in future years, he added.
In the meantime, the district plans to assemble a committee that will discuss various options for using the land, Apse said. “For the time being, we’re going to explore educational opportunities available through use of the land,” he said. The district will also continue to lease a portion of the land to a local farmer, as the land’s previous owners had.
The district set off on the path toward purchasing the land four years ago when it identified a need to purchase 50 or more acres of land as part of its strategic planning. The district does not have space to expand on the land it already owns, Apse said. Additions were made to buildings after the community passed a referendum in 2019, but it would be difficult to grow further in the area the buildings are on, Apse said, particularly if the district’s enrollment increases significantly.
The opportunity to purchase the land arose when the previous owners approached the district about buying the acres, Apse said. The School Board approved the purchase of the land late last December.
The district bought the land through a lease purchase agreement and will make payments over time. The funds for the payments will come from the district’s general fund, Apse said.