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LPS identifies locations for new high schools in northwest, southeast Lincoln
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LPS identifies locations for new high schools in northwest, southeast Lincoln

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Lincoln Public Schools has a deal to buy two large plots of land in the northwest and southeast parts of the city for proposed high schools — among the most high-profile projects on the bond issue voters have yet to approve.

The two land deals will come up for first reading Tuesday before the Lincoln Board of Education, the culmination of what officials said is more than two years of work to find the best locations.

The board will vote on whether to approve those contracts Dec. 10, the same day the board is expected to approve a resolution for a $290 million bond issue, which would likely come before voters in a special election in February.

The land deals include:

* A 144-acre plot near 70th Street and Saltillo Road in southeast Lincoln for $3.6 million from Aginvest LLC.

* A 119-acre plot along Northwest 48th Street and near Interstate 80 for $5.8 million from Ringneck Development. 

The southeast parcel is about a half-mile north of the planned South Beltway. The southern line of the property runs along Saltillo Road and the western edge along South 70th Street.

The registered agent of the company selling the land is Danja Pegram Siders. LPS owns another site in northwest Lincoln bought from the Pegram family years ago. 

The land for the high school is just south of about 20 acres LPS bought last year for an elementary school, though the only new elementary school planned in this bond issue will be in northeast Lincoln.

LPS currently owns 13 undeveloped sites across the city, not counting the two new high school sites.

The northwest parcel is about a quarter-mile north of Interstate 80 between Northwest 48th and Northwest 56th streets. The north end of the property runs along West Holdrege Street and the southern end along the yet-to-be-built West Vine Street.

The land appears to be the middle portion of a long-planned mixed-use development by Ringneck, that was to include housing, retail and office uses on 233 acres. The developer still owns the land to the north.

Todd Lorenz, one of the partners of Ringneck, declined comment.

Planning for the bond issue began more than two years ago, as did the search for high school sites, said LPS Operations Director Scott Wieskamp.

The district looked at dozens of properties, and began negotiating on the sale of the two sites six to eight months ago, Wieskamp said.

In August, an advisory committee made recommendations on the bond issue to the school board, which included building two smaller high schools with the capacity to expand to hold 2,000 students. 

The sites are considerably larger than those on which Southwest and North Star were built — both of which were about 70 acres — to accommodate new districtwide athletic and activities complexes on each of the sites, Wieskamp said. The northwest complex would have a football/track stadium and baseball field, the southeast site fields for soccer and softball.

The bond proposal includes $13 million for new athletic complexes, although the district is depending on more than $11 million in private donations to cover the entire cost, including adding artificial turf to practice fields at all of the existing high schools.

One of the advantages to both sites, Wieskamp said, is that they are not directly adjacent to existing residences that could be impacted by the lighting and parking issue related to the proposed athletic complexes.

“We wanted to make sure we’re not imposing on existing neighborhoods,” he said. Once the land is developed, prospective homeowners would know what to expect.

Still, the locations are driven by rooftops and there is significant residential development going on very near both sites, said Liz Standish, LPS associate superintendent of business affairs.

Residential development is underway just north of the northwest site, as well as south of Rokeby Road in southeast Lincoln, and construction of the South Beltway would likely spur more development there.

The South Beltway is a planned four-lane expressway that will link U.S. 77 and Nebraska 2. Construction is slated to start next spring. 

If the bond issue passes, the northwest high school would be built first because infrastructure, including sewers and roads, is farther along in that area, Wieskamp said. The northwest high school would open in 2022, the southeast school in 2023.

Neither site is currently within city limits.

The land deals will go forward in anticipation of the bond issue passing, but LPS will buy the land even if the bond issue fails, Wieskamp said.

Overall, high schools are at 115% capacity, Standish said, and the board will need space to deal with that overcrowding at some point.

Were the bond issue to fail, the district has about $6 million in its building fund. The district has built up the fund by devoting a portion of its general fund tax levy for that purpose. Another $2.5 million is earmarked from this year’s budget, Standish said.

The bond proposal includes another $10 million to buy and develop land. 

The purchase agreement for the northwest site also includes the option of trading property the district owns near 93rd Street and Old Cheney Road, Wieskamp said.

Each Lincoln school's ranking in state evaluations

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

On Twitter @LJSreist

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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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