After over a decade, a decision has finally been made on the future of the abandoned Jacobs campus in Eureka’s Highland Park neighborhood. At a meeting Thursday night the Eureka City Schools Board of Education unanimously voted to sell the property.
The decision gained applause from the crowd of community members who had gathered to voice their concerns about the vacant school. Many were members of the South Eureka Neighborhood Alliance (SENA) — a group of residents who have been pressuring the board to remove the derelict building blighting their neighborhood.
“We ask that Eureka City Schools demolish buildings on the property as soon as possible,” said SENA member Micha DeNizio during the meeting.
The building has been abandoned for over 10 years and the school board has since been unable to decide what to do with the property. Though it has been known for some time that the building needs to be demolished, the board has been prioritizing funding for projects in schools that still house students.
But with the state of the building worsening and pressures from the community mounting, Superintendent of Eureka City Schools Fred Van Vleck said that it is time to make the Jacobs campus a priority.
“We’ve reached a point now on that campus where something really needs to be done,” Van Vleck said to the board.
Van Vleck outlined the pros and cons of both selling or keeping the property, saying that he was making no specific recommendation to the board, because there were advantages to both options. However, he did say that the best short term option would be to sell.
The cost of demolition would likely be upwards of $2 million, Van Vleck said. If the board were to keep the property, it would have to come up with that money somehow. Van Vleck said that would likely require cuts to be made to the budget elsewhere.
One of the arguments Van Vleck emphasized for keeping the property is that although the board is not using it now, if the population were to grow in the area, it may be needed for opening another school in the future.
Board member Susan Johnson said that she understood the concern about giving up the property. “But that is a huge ‘if,’” she said.
In the end, the other board members agreed with Johnson and voted to sell the Jacobs campus. The adjacent soccer fields will not be sold as a part of the property and will instead become a part of Alice Birney Elementary School.
It is not yet clear what the timeline will be for sale or demolition. The board did not make any further decisions during this meeting. But Van Vleck recommended that the board make the property available both with or without the building still standing and determine which would be more profitable.
So far, the California Highway Patrol has been the primary interested party. Van Vleck said that CHP expressed interest in purchasing the property for use as a new headquarters. And some SENA members did mentioned they were in support of this option.
Van Vleck assured the crowd that they will be informed of the board’s progress during the next steps. He also thanked the community and SENA members for their suggestions and their courteous behavior during the meeting.
“It’s not often that we get a meeting that’s so solution oriented,” he said.