The Woodland School community and its neighbors in Ladera are celebrating after the private school won its bid at a March 27 auction to remain on the site it has called home for 30 years.
The school had one competitor -- the German-American International School in Menlo Park -- during an open bidding process for the former Ladera School, which was operated by the Las Lomitas School District until closing in the late 1970s. The district has leased out the property since 1981 to Woodland, a preschool through eighth-grade school.
The private school signed an option agreement Tuesday morning (March 27) after the bidding. Tim Brady, chair of the Woodland School board of directors, said he's hopeful a lease agreement will be signed within 60 days.
"Obviously, we're really excited" about the prospect of staying at the Ladera site, Mr. Brady said. Now paying $650,000 annually for the site, the school will increase its lease payments to $710,000 -- a 9 percent increase -- when the new lease goes into effect in August 2013.
The German-American International School submitted a written bid of $651,000; Woodland School's written bid was $660,000. The two schools bid against each other during an oral auction, with the German-American school putting down the paddle at $705,000.
Woodland had been in a kind of limbo for about two years: With a long-term lease expiring in July 2010, the private school signed one-year extensions while the Las Lomitas district board delayed a decision on what to do with the property in the long term.
Woodland officials pressed the school district to act quickly so that they could make long-range plans, which would include raising millions of dollars to repair and renovate the site if the school were allowed to stay.
The Ladera community also urged the district to move more quickly, with residents expressing concern that Woodland, which had been a good neighbor for decades, would find another site to move to out of frustration with the district's inaction.
Mr. Brady said he was grateful to Ladera residents "for all their help -- they've been fantastic."
John Ora, Woodland's head of school, was there to sign the option agreement with Mr. Brady Tuesday, looking relieved that the uncertainty about the school's home and future was almost over. He and other school officials were fearful that the uncertainty would cause parents to place their children in other schools.
"The parents were really supportive," Mr. Ora said after the auction. The school lost some enrollment during the process, but not as much as some school officials had feared, he said.
Superintendent Eric Hartwig said in an email: "I would say that all of us at the Las Lomitas District are also very happy with the outcome. It has been a long road that had to be navigated very carefully, but we are thrilled to have the security of a long lease with a respected tenant."