If more land is needed in the future for parking or a larger health clinic, the Center Grove school district wants to be prepared.

That’s why school officials have set their sights on a neighborhood just south of Center Grove High School.

The small subdivision, called Pennington Estates, borders school property, has its own natural boundaries and the homes are older and often have a lower price, Superintendent Richard Arkanoff said.

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The school district already owns one property in the neighborhood and is considering buying at least one other. The hope is that in the coming years, the school district could buy more of the homes as they are listed for sale, giving Center Grove a large piece of property that could be used for future growth. The school district also is interested in another property north of the neighborhood along Morgantown Road, which is across the street from the professional services building.

Center Grove doesn’t plan to seek out properties, but instead wants to buy homes as they become available. One home owner recently contacted the school district. The owner also must be willing to accept a price that is the average of two appraisals, which is what the school must pay under the law, Arkanoff said.

School officials are interested in properties that border the schools when they are for sale because having that land will allow them to prepare for future needs, such as for parking, which is always a need, a larger health clinic or future expansions, Arkanoff said.

Officials will continue to look at more as they become available, Arkanoff said.

“We see an opportunity here to put the corporation in a good situation 10, 15, 20 or 30 years from now,” Arkanoff said.

Short-term, school officials have no plans for the properties, Arkanoff said. They will likely pay to demolish the homes, since they don’t need them, and then the property will be vacant until it is needed, he said.

But long-term, that property could be used for multiple purposes, possibly including a future elementary school, depending on the size of the building that was needed, he said.

“It may be a good size for that, but it’s hard to tell what we will need in an elementary in future years,” he said.

The properties in Pennington Estates fit into the school district’s growth plan since the land borders school property, has set boundaries, including nearby roads and the school district’s baseball fields, and has a limited size, of about 30 homes.

And many of the homes are older, built in the 1970s, meaning their prices aren’t as high as some of the other homes in the Center Grove area, he said. For example, it wouldn’t make sense for the school district to buy a large neighborhood with higher priced homes, and then knock those homes down, Arkanoff said.

“If we have the funds and people who live there want to sell, absolutely we will talk to them,” Arkanoff said.

No prices have been determined for the two properties the school district is considering buying now, but Center Grove spent nearly $300,000 on the home across the street from the high school last year. The price the school district can pay for the properties must be the average of two appraisals, under state law. So if the owners want more, they have to find another buyer, Arkanoff said.

The money to buy the homes has come from the school district’s savings in the rainy day fund and the capital projects fund, which collects property tax dollars for projects and other work to buildings, Arkanoff said.

Center Grove has enough money to buy more properties over time, but could not do it all at once, he said.

The school district isn’t facing a time crunch, since buying the properties is part of a long-term plan, he said.

“Long-term, right now, we see it as something we should buy and hold on to,” Arkanoff said.

Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.