The Van Buren School Board solved its district’s problems of lack of space and parking by voting to purchase the Cardio Studio and its property on Northridge Drive during its January meeting.

The current building will give the district an additional 11,149 square feet plus addition overflow parking for Northridge Middle School, which sits adjacent to the Cardio Studio property.

“By purchasing this property it would allow us to utilize that land,” said Superintendent Dr. Harold Jeffcoat, “and it would also allow us to develop some plans for a professional development center as well as possibly transferring our River Valley Virtual Academy to this location. We’ve talked about moving the Virtual Academy out of the Freshman Academy at some point anyway. If we had had this property before, or a piece of property before, we would have started (the Virtual Academy) in the alternate location.”

The district currently holds its professional development meetings in the administration building’s board room.

“Right now we have training in this room, so when we have district-wide professional development … it gets cramped in here,” said Jeffcoat. “There’s not really a lot of space, not a lot of breathing room. We see a lot of districts that are our size that actually have dedicated professional development centers. We just haven’t been able to accomplish that, but with this building we will be able to accomplish it. It will be a great complement to our district.”

Before approving the $990,000 purchase, the board transferred $750,000 from its operating budget into the building fund.

“This is a little over 11,000 square feet, so you’re looking at about $87-90 a square foot,” Jeffcoat said. “For a commercial building that has a parking lot that’s 10 years old that’s a pretty good price.”

Jeffcoat said he expects the building to be functional for professional development activities by August. Transferring the Virtual Academy before the next school year might take longer.

“There are so many open spaces there’s not a lot of tear down that would be required,” he said. “Tear down is done in-house with our construction folks, so it’s a pretty low cost procedure. So I feel it would be ready for the professional development. It may not be for the Virtual Academy side, because we’ll have to do a little more work with that, and we’ll also have to go to the state board to get approval to move our virtual academy to another location, so that might cause more of a delay, but as for our uses as a professional development center we would be able to use this in August.

The current business will have 90 days from Jan. 8 to vacate the premises with the district assuming ownership around April 7.

As for the current parking situation, Jeffcoat said, “We already use that parking lot now. They’re gracious and have allowed us to. We’ve not had to seek permission, they just let us. Parent-Teacher Conference nights, or any parent night, we utilize that space.”

He added, “There will likely be a sidewalk we will put between those two locations.”

The vote passed unanimously.