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San Diego Unified Will Sell 2 Schools

The San Diego Unified Board of Education building at 4100 Normal Street, Oct. 24, 2012.
Katie Schoolov
The San Diego Unified Board of Education building at 4100 Normal Street, Oct. 24, 2012.

The elementary school campus where the infamous "I Don't Like Mondays" shootings took place 36 years ago and another nearby campus will be put up for sale following a pair of 4-1 votes Tuesday evening by the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education.

The properties were two of several which district officials intended to sell off a couple years ago to balance its budget and help bridge the gap until funding from the voter-approved Proposition 30 tax increases kicked in.

"Otherwise we would have had to dismantle a lot of programs, cause a lot of disruption and disturb our students very much," Trustee John Lee Evans said.


The almost 9-acre Cleveland Elementary School at 6365 Lake Atlin Ave. in San Carlos — having sparked no interest on the part of any public agency — will now be advertised for sale. The state Education Code requires school districts that want to unload property to gauge interest from other government agencies as a first step.

On Jan. 29, 1979, 16-year-old Brenda Spencer opened fire on the campus with a .22-caliber rifle from a window at her family's house across the street, killing principal Burton Wragg and custodian Mike Suchar. Eight students and a police officer were wounded.

Spencer later said the shooting was spurred by her dislike of Mondays. Frequently referred to as the first school mass-shooter, she is imprisoned and not eligible for another parole hearing until 2019.

The campus is occupied by the Magnolia Science Academy charter school. According to district data, the district spends an average of nearly $116,000 annually to maintain the campus and receives about $61,000 a year from the charter school.

The district estimates it could gain $5.8 million in revenue from a sale, minus costs for the transaction.


The other campus, the former Benchley Elementary, is located at 7202 Princess View Drive in the Navajo neighborhood. The approximately 4.3-acre property could generate $2 million in revenue, minus transaction expenses, according to the district.

The campus is leased to Excelsior Academy, which has occupied the space since 1994. The district says it receives more than $85,700 in annual fees from the charter school, while the property costs roughly $32,000 a year to maintain.

Excelsior staffers argued that the school district violated the terms of the state Education Code, including not allowing them enough time to come up with a fair market value offer. However, district officials said Excelsior Academy could still bid on the property.

"Ultimately if Excelsior could stay at this particular location and continue to work and so forth, if there was a way to have that, (it would) be a win for the district and for the school, I think that would be a great outcome," Evans said.

Freshman Trustee Michael McQuary cast both dissenting votes. He said he understood the sales were in the works long before he was elected, but on principle the district should "look for other avenues short of selling property."

District officials said both Magnolia and Excelsior have multi-year agreements to lease their campuses and are being kept apprised of the sale plans.