LPS District Office fire

A Lincoln firefighter continues to pour water on the Lincoln Public Schools administration, 5901 O St., Tuesday, May 31, 2011, as crews start the demolition of the building.

Journal Star file photo

One of two office buildings occupied by Celerion will become Lincoln Public Schools' second district office for at least the next year.

LPS Superintendent Steve Joel announced an agreement between the clinical research company and the school district at a Tuesday morning news conference at the former Experian building, 949 W. Bond St., into which many of the district's employees have begun to move since a Memorial Day fire destroyed LPS's main office at 5901 O St.

"We've experienced such incredible generosity from the community," Joel said. "It is truly an example of how interconnected the city of Lincoln is."

On Monday, the City Council approved an agreement with LPS by which the school district will rent 41,000 square feet of space in one of two buildings the city bought from Experian near Lincoln Airport.

The city will lease the Experian space for $12.50 a square foot, which amounts to $42,708.33 a month or $512,500 a year.

The agreement with Celerion, signed shortly before the news conference Tuesday, is for 39,371 square feet, of which 31,725 is office space. The rest, Joel said, will be used for storage.

"I can't say enough about their willingness to help LPS," he said.

The district's lease with Celerion is similar to the one with the city in that it runs until Aug. 31, 2012, with the option of two three-month extensions.

The private space will cost slightly more. Although the district negotiated the same $12.50-per-square-foot price, it will pay an extra $3.50 a square foot for utilities, indoor and outdoor maintenance (not custodial services) and property taxes.

That turns out to be $629,936 a year or $52,494.67 a month.

School district officials are negotiating with insurance companies on a settlementfor the fire but have said insurance will cover both rebuilding and relocation costs.

After nearly a week of negotiating with Celerion, Joel said sticking points included how quickly LPS could move in and confidentiality concerns because of testing done at Celerion. LPS and Celerion employees will be on different floors, he said.

Celerion, a private company, bought a portion of MDS Pharma Services in March 2010 and does clinical testing for drug companies. It employs just fewer than 300 people in Lincoln, company spokesperson Farzana Azam said.

Most of the those employees are at the corporate headquarters at 621 Rose St., but 77 work at 3801 S. 14th St. The company was planning to move those employees back to Rose Street and decided to expedite the process after the LPS fire, Azam said.

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The 100 or so LPS employees moving into the second floor of the former Experian building are from six departments: federal programs, evaluation and assessment, library media services, professional development, curriculum and printing services. The music library and instruments also will be housed there. Printing services will use space in the basement, where LPS will have access to a loading dock.

About 120 Experian employees will remain on the first floor. About 75 city employees from engineering services were planning to move into the second-floor space but now will remain in the other former Experian building until LPS moves out.

Some LPS employees will begin moving into the Celerion building next week. Those include the district's executive team -- the superintendent and associate superintendents, directors of secondary and elementary education and of budget and fiscal services, public relations and the multicultural affairs administrator. Administrative assistants for those directors also will move.

On July 10, about 72 more people will move in, including the accounting and payroll department, human resources, communications and graphics, the IT help desk, district athletics, the foundation for Lincoln Public Schools and TeamMates.

Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler commended school district employees for their efforts to get back on their collective feet after the fire.

"Your gathering together in an attempt not to miss a beat is really incredible," he said. "This might turn out to be your finest hour, or close to it."

Reach Margaret Reist at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com

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