Nearly 20 years after the Franklin community embarked on a long and divisive debate about where to build a new high school, some of the property that eventually became home to the new school might go up for sale.
The possibility surfaced in recent months when a developer asked the school district if it would consider selling land on the east side of the campus. The property is home to a portion of the cross-country course but is mostly unused by the school district and rented to a farmer.
School board members have made no decisions and haven’t debated whether to sell but are taking steps to find out the value of 62 acres, which is about 25 percent of the campus. The landscape near the high school is changing with the construction of Meijer nearby on U.S. 31, and more development is expected.
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“We ultimately envision that area is going to grow,” Superintendent David Clendening said. “With Meijer coming in and future development up U.S. 31, what does that do to our campus?”
The potential developer is interested in about 31 acres, but the school board decided to get the value of the entire 62 acres.
“We want to look at all of it just to know.”
The board plans to hire two appraisers next week. After learning the value of the property in light of new development and changing land costs since it was purchased in 2003, the board could discuss whether to consider selling the land, or whether the school should continue to own the property, Clendening said.
What the developer wants to build on the property that borders a neighborhood and the high school has not been released, but Clendening said the school district would carefully consider how the property would be used before agreeing to a sale.
“We would be selective,” Clendening said. “Would the future use fit our mission and values of the school district and the community?”
“It’s going to have to fit with our structure and what we want,” Clendening said. “Does it help us? Does it help the community?”
The school board must also consider the school district’s future enrollment and if that land would ever be needed. A demographic study is expected soon.
How big the high school campus should be and where the new high school was built was a contentious issue that divided Franklin residents and elected school board members for nearly five years.
Task forces first began discussing the need for a new high school in 1995, and the school board bought land at Eastview Drive and Upper Shelbyville Road two years later.
But in 2000 and 2001, residents and school board members began disagreeing about where the school should be built and considered options on Nineveh Road on the southside or at Division and Centerline roads on the west side. Residents, officials and even state lawmakers got involved, hiring attorneys, forming community groups, attending state hearings and starting a petition and remonstrance proceedings in favor of or opposed to certain sites.
At least 28 possible sites for a new school were considered.
In 2003, the school board decided to buy 236 acres on the northwest side at a cost of $4.3 million. At one point, city and school officials discussed building a new fire station or an additional elementary school on the high school campus.
The new high school opened in 2007.