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PRINCETON: School district eyeing a second parcel of land

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By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
The Princeton school district has jumped into the local real estate market in recent days by offering to acquire two undisclosed properties, with an eye toward moving employees out of the Valley Road administration building and using that site for a new school for fifth-and sixth- graders.
The district would not disclose the location of the properties or say how much it had offered to the owners. Officials have said the nonbinding offers — made late last week and Monday — are contingent on voters approving a facilities bond referendum, planned for October.
“Some property owners might not want to wait,” said school board Vice President Dafna Kendal by phone Tuesday, “so we need to plan for that.”
Kendal said the district has not ruled out acquiring both parcels. Asked what officials would do with them in that case, she replied: “I can’t comment without damaging our negotiating position.”
Officials said there is no timetable for when they expect to hear back from the property owners on whether the offers had been accepted or not.
“There’s no deal until there’s a deal,” board President Patrick Sullivan said Tuesday.
Last week, the school board voted to give the district administration authority to make an offer to acquire property for a new home for the Valley Road staff, “transportation with buses and the maintenance office/shop,” read in a board resolution in part. Officials did not say, then, that were going to bid on two parcels, and sounded as if they were intending to obtain only one.
“We should have said there was more than one,” Kendal said.
Superintendent of Schools Stephen C. Cochrane has sought to build the case for a facilities referendum by pointing to a growing enrollment that is projected to increase in the coming years. Officials have talked of putting on a three-floor addition at Princeton High School, which is overcrowded. The school for fifth and sixth-graders, planned for Valley Road and Witherspoon Street, also would help alleviate the enrollment pressure the district is seeing at its schools. But the district has not confirmed whether it intends to renovate the existing Valley Road building or knock it down.
Information shared with residents of Cranbury Township, the town that Princeton has a send-receive relationship with, points to a new building. Cranbury Township Committeeman Glenn Johnson, in a report at a Township Committee meeting in November, said Princeton intended to raze Valley Road and build a new school.
When asked Tuesday if the district would knock down the building, Cochrane replied, “We are looking to build a school here that serves the community.”

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