The town of Westford will purchase two parcels of school land for $1 each after voters approved the move last week during a floor vote, according to school board chairman Mark Drapa.
Voters also supported the school board’s intention to work with the selectboard on easements and use agreements to help spell out correct use for the properties.
The Essex Westford unified school district assumes all assets of its two existing entities — Essex Town School District and the Chittenden Central Supervisory Union — on July 1, 2017. That includes Westford’s three parcels of school land.
Since the new district must honor any current contracts held by the local boards, the Westford School Board can deal directly with its selectboard to finalize any easements.
Still, Drapa said his board will work with the unified board to explain the intent behind the agreements.
“We can go in and try to keep the school’s ability to use, develop and maintain the land to be identical to the way it is today,” he said.
Westford’s school land is currently made up of three parcels. The first is about 14 acres and includes the school building, driveway, parking lot, playground, a majority of athletic fields and a generator owned by the town.
The two remaining parcels include about 65 acres of trails as well as half the softball field and one soccer field.
The town currently maintains the trail system on Parcels 2 and 3, which the town will now purchase. The trailhead is on Parcel 1, however, with parking only available in the school’s lot. And although the school can access the generator during power outages, the building itself is designated as an emergency shelter for the town.
The land was donated over the years; deed restrictions state it can only be used for recreation and education purposes, Drapa told the unified board last month.
He hopes the move will clear up Westford residents’ concerns over maintaining land ownership.
The unified district’s articles of agreements state no schools will be closed within the first five years. After that point, the district must offer the land back to the town for $1 before selling any land.
That five-year window presented too much of an unknown for Westford residents, Drapa said.
“It was imperative for our town to have some earlier guarantee,” he said.