February 13, 2013

Former Mueller Elementary to be auctioned Friday

Wichita school district officials hope to sell another vacant school building this week.

Wichita school district officials hope to sell another vacant school building this week.

The former Mueller Elementary School, 2821 E. 24th St. North, just northwest of 21st and Hillside, will be auctioned at noon Friday as the district looks to unload more of its surplus property.

Wichita school board members voted in December to sell the school. It was one of four elementary buildings that closed last spring when the district redrew its attendance boundaries.

It will be the second district property auctioned within the past year. The former Booth Elementary School, 5920 E. Mount Vernon, was auctioned last summer to Hope International Fellowship, a nondenominational Christian church that paid $83,000 for the property.

“We’ve had lots of interest in the (Mueller) property, so we’re entering into the auction optimistic about a positive result,” said Julie Hedrick, director of facilities for the Wichita district.

“A successful sale will be a win-win: good for the district, good for the buyer and good for the neighborhood.”

Mueller’s aerospace and engineering magnet program moved to the former Isely Elementary School – a new building at 2500 E. 18th St. – when Isely’s program moved to a new building in Bel Aire.

The former Mueller was built in 1952. The 57,100-square-foot building and surrounding property, about 4 acres, are zoned single-family residential.

An advertisement for the property on the J.P. Weigand & Sons website calls the former school a “great redevelopment opportunity or possible church.” Interior photographs show the library that was expanded and remodeled as part of the 2000 bond issue, as well as classrooms, a gymnasium and a colorful hallway mural painted by fifth-graders.

In 2003, the district spent nearly $1.2 million to upgrade infrastructure at Mueller and renovate its library, officials said.

The former school is one of several in the district’s inventory. Other vacant buildings include Blackbear Bosin Academy (formerly Price Elementary) in a neighborhood near 13th and Woodlawn; Michener, which the Wichita Police Department and Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office use as a training center; and Longfellow Elementary, 2116 S. Main, which the district keeps for emergencies.

During the debate over school closings last year, residents worried that vacant schools would become neighborhood eyesores – magnets for vandals, drug dealers or worse. Others said empty schools would drain the district’s already strapped budget.

Since closing the former Mueller building, the district has spent about $4,300 on maintenance and upkeep at the site, most of it to mow grass, repair broken windows and remove graffiti. Security officers still patrol vacant school sites, and the district runs power to empty buildings to operate security systems.

Three other elementaries – Bryant, Emerson and Lincoln – closed last year as part of cost-cutting measures related to new school boundaries. The former Metro-Boulevard Alternative High School, 751 George Washington Blvd., also is vacant since the program moved to the former Northeast Magnet High School.

Friday’s auction will take place at the school. Potential buyers should be ready to make a 10 percent earnest deposit. The district has the right to refuse any potential buyer, however, and a final sale will require board action.

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