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Douglas schools eye BLM lane

by Merrie Leininger

The Douglas County School board is planning for the future.

School Board President Don Forrester spoke to the Douglas County Commission at Thursday’s meeting about working together to obtain land from the Bureau of Land Management for a possible new high school.

Land east of Highway 395 to the county line is BLM land that public entities can acquire for very little cost.

According to Director of Business Services Rick Kester, the district bought the 55 acres Jacks Valley Elementary School sits on from BLM.

When Kester contacted the BLM to discuss the possibility of obtaining land, they were told the county had been making inquiries about the same parcel.

Forrester said the district wanted to inform the board of their intentions so they could possibly work together and not interfere in each other’s plans.

“At some point in the future, we will need to build a new school,” Forrester said. “If we can get land for free, it’s nuts to go out and buy it.”

n Hard to find. Although the district won’t build another high school for at least five years, DCSD is always looking for good sites for schools because there are a lot of considerations, Kester said. He said the north end of the county makes the most sense for a high school.

“It is difficult because high schools are unique and their location requires a great deal of planning. A lot of students drive and campuses are 40 or 50 acres. They need to be well-planned about what’s around them. Douglas County has been developed in small pieces. We don’t get the planning opportunities we need to get a high school where the infrastructure serves it, and the rest of the community, in the best way,” he said.

Forrester said it is almost necessary for districts to build such a large facility as a high school before a neighborhood grows up around it because there is so much activity on the campus.

Forrester said Douglas High School is 40 acres and DCSD would probably want 45 acres for a new high school, to leave room for expansion.

Forrester said the idea came from the state Legislature, which has suggested it to poor counties to save money. Forrester said DCSD district figured it would also work for Douglas and Carson City.

“The legislature has suggested a joint school. That may not happen. We’ve talked to Carson City about it before,” Forrester said.

Other possibilities are that a new high school would ease the need for a new middle school, or the 9th graders could be moved back into the high school.

The ninth grade students were shifted to both middle schools in 1994 in order to make more room at Douglas High School, Forrester said.

– Public land. The patent process the BLM uses, Kester said, hands the land over gradually.

“They make the land available for public purposes under federal law. Initially, the land is reserved and then leased and eventually the patent on the land is handed over,” Kester said.

He said the district leased the Jacks Valley land for five years at a cost of $250 a year after the building was built, then they had to pay a survey price of $14,000 and a purchase price of $1,000.