Dispute has Monroe schools paying to rent empty building

MONROE — It was supposed to save the Monroe School District about $494,000 a year.

So far, it hasn’t worked.

The school district decided in February to consolidate three middle schools into two — and shift hundreds of students in the process. Students at alternative school programs located at the Sky Valley Education Center moved into the vacant middle school.

With the move, school district officials planned to save about $41,000 a month on rent for the education center.

But the landlord for that private property claims the school district didn’t have a right to terminate the lease. So the district for the past three months has continued to pay rent.

“Out of an abundance of caution and without agreeing that the landlord’s contention is correct, the district decided to send another termination notice in July 2011,” Monroe School Board President Jamie Wright wrote in an email.

Fryelands Sixth Avenue Associates LLC, which owns the property of the former alternative program at 17072 Tye St. SE, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

By continuing to make the lease payment, the district hopes to avoid claims of default and potential penalties, Wright said.

“Our objective is to efficiently resolve this matter so that we can maintain our focus on serving our students,” Wright said.

The district expects to pay Fryelands Sixth Avenue $66,346 next month to lease the building on Tye Street and a second lease on another building that serves students with special needs. It also will pay for changes made by the district on both properties, district spokeswoman Rosemary O’Neil said.

The second program that serves students with special needs — called Summit — is located in the same industrial park. The district also is considering moving from that location.

The Sky Valley school is a one-floor, 32,400-square-foot building on less than 2 acres of property. The property is currently listed as vacant on a commercial real estate website.

Fryelands Sixth Avenue has a Sammamish mailing address, according to Snohomish County Assessor’s website. The group has owned that parcel since February 2004.

Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; adominguez@heraldnet.com

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