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With a real estate appraisal under way, the Billings School District 2 Business Committee began discussing the possibility of selling the Crossroads Alternative High School property, located on the busy corner of 14th Street West and Grand Avenue.

The school, which served about 90 students at risk of dropping out, was closed last month to balance the high school budget left $1 million in the red after the failure of a $2.6 million mill levy.

In April, when the board first considered closing Crossroads, Idaho shopping mall developer Gary Hawkins, of Hawkins Cos., offered the district $1.9 million for the property. It was the second time he'd expressed interest in the property. Last year, he offered the district $1.8 million for the 2-acre parcel.

After Hawkins' first offer, the Business Committee recommended that the board declare Crossroads surplus property and seize the opportunity to sell the building. Trustees declared the property surplus but opted not to sell the property.

In a retail hub that includes two mini-malls, several restaurants, a drugstore, furniture store and two grocery stores, Crossroads School is prime real estate.

"In my opinion, the best and highest use for that locale is probably retail," Business Committee Chairman Dale Getz said at the Monday meeting.

While the building was used as a high school, the property is owned by the elementary district, which is, by law, managed separately from the high school district. If the Crossroads property were sold, the funds would go into the elementary building fund and could be used only for the purchase of real property, building projects or renovations.

With board approval, the elementary district could sell the property to the high school district, and then sell the property to the end buyer, which would boost the high school building fund.

If the district were to keep Crossroads and continue to operate it as a school, the building would need an estimated $2.6 million in repairs to bring it up to current educational standards.

Trustee Joel Guthals, who sits on the board's ad hoc building ownership committee, called the property an "albatross" and said the building is not suitable for use as a school not only because of its poor condition, but also because of its location on a busy thoroughfare.

The Business Committee will review the appraisal as soon as it's available and make a recommendation to the board later this summer.

Contact Laura Tode at ltode@billingsgazette.com or at 657-1392.

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