Map: New middle school site
Lincoln Journal Star

Lincoln Public Schools would pay the city about $190,000 for land near 84th Street and Yankee Hill Road to build a new middle school, but also would pay for the bulk of site development costs.

The Lincoln Board of Education’s planning committee will recommend Tuesday that the school board approve the purchase agreement, a product of several months of negotiations between the city and the school district. The board will consider the agreement Tuesday but won’t vote on it until its July meeting.

The proposed agreement puts the price of the 25.7 acres at $1.1 million, but subtracts $916,000 -- that portion of site development costs that would benefit the city. That means LPS would pay the city $189,975 for the land, and cover the $4.2 million it will take to develop the site. 

Those costs include everything from a public access road to grading, sewer improvements, parking, lighting and landscaping.

LPS is planning to build a $38 million middle school for about 850 students as part of the $153 million bond issue approved by voters in February. Last fall, the district sought proposals for a site.

Four property owners responded with offers on six parcels of land, and school officials have decided the best option is a portion of 193 acres of park land purchased by the city in 1995 with $600,000 donated by Dale, Vicki and Karen Jensen. The city later bought 7 adjacent acres of land, which is now green space.

Ed Zimmer, chairman of the school board's planning committee, said the park land is the best choice, in part, because building on public land means not removing privately owned land from the tax rolls.

Building on the site bordered by 84th Street and Yankee Hill Road also would help relieve overcrowding in other south Lincoln middle schools.

“Part of the benefit we see of the site is that it’s well-positioned to relieve pressure on Lux, Pound and Scott,” Zimmer said.

The city farms the land and will continue to farm what it still owns until it decides exactly how to use it, Lincoln Parks and Recreation Director Lynn Johnson said.

The city’s master plan calls for a baseball and soccer complex there, although in 2009 consultants recommended building the complex near Haymarket Park. And now, two private sports complexes are being developed, leaving the city’s plans for sports fields even more up in the air.

LPS, though, is on a fast track to build the new middle school in conjunction with the YMCA, which is planning a 55,000-square-foot facility to be attached to the school. The collaboration would be similar to one with Schoo Middle School in northwest Lincoln’s Fallbrook subdivision.

The new middle school is set to open in 2017.

The access road would be used for school traffic but also could be used by the city once it develops the park. And the road would include access to a portion of the land on which the city may decide to build a library, Johnson said.

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A portion of the grading would benefit the city and could act as a catalyst for development of the park land, LPS Operations Director Scott Wieskamp said.

Wieskamp said city and school district officials had hoped to reach an agreement a couple of months ago but wanted to work out all the details before moving a proposed agreement forward. The district also considered a similar agreement on private land on the northwest corner of 70th Street and Yankee Hill Road owned by the Campbell family.

Other property considered by LPS included two configurations of a parcel of land on the northeast corner of Rokeby Road and what will eventually be a continuation of South 48th Street; and two parcels of land on the southeast corner of Yankee Hill Road, one at 78th Street and the other at 70th Street.

The proposed agreement with the city would allow the school to function separately of the city-owned land, whether it remains farmland or is developed into a park, Wieskamp said.

Johnson said the city may still decide to build soccer and baseball fields at the park. And the city and YMCA have been discussing collaborating on a swimming pool in the area, although no decision has been made on that, he said.

LPS and the city have collaborated on a number of projects over the years, including three recreation centers built in conjunction with schools. Twenty-five schools have been built next to city land that has either already been made into park land or is slated to be, Johnson said.

​Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

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Education reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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