Loudoun supervisors have sent a letter to the Loudoun School Board expressing “genuine concern” over the idea that the county would take ownership of the Middleburg Community Charter School, if even for a short period, as part of plans to divest the property.
The school system has been leasing the property to Middleburg Community Charter School’s board of directors for $1 a year since 2014, the year the public elementary school closed and the charter school moved in. It is thought to be the oldest operating school building in Loudoun. The School Board is discussing whether it should hold on to the building and property, or surplus them to the county and, ultimately, the Town of Middleburg.
School Board member Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) suggested the move last year, remarking the school system is “not in the business of leasing property.” He, and other School Board members, have suggested that the Town of Middleburg actually take ownership of the property. Legally speaking, the property would first need to be handed over to the county government. “The original facility was the town’s, so it is fitting, at least from my perspective, that we try to give it back to the town,” Hornberger said.
If the school system declares the property to be surplus, it will convey the real estate to the county, which would have no option to decline the property.
But if the school system is not in the business of leasing property, supervisors have said, neither is the county in the business of running schools. The school system has shown no sign of revoking the school’s charter. County staff members have estimated the cost of running the building would nearly quadruple if the county government were to take over.
That increase in cost is expected for two reasons: the county would likely have to start paying for water and sewer on the property, which up until now the Town of Middleburg has been provided for free; and differences in how the two organizations maintain their facilities, including that the county contracts for much of its maintenance work, while the school system uses state-subsidized in-house work. The county government would also take over any large projects in the school’s future, such as plan to repave the parking lot in the next four years.
The Town of Middleburg would bear those costs if it ultimately accepts the property. The Town Council has not yet expressed any official interest in owning the school.
If the school is surplussed, the Board of Supervisors could also donate or sublet the property to a nonprofit, or just sell the property.