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RACINE — The Common Council has approved a property swap with Racine Unified School District.

As part of the deal, the school district will acquire Franklin Park, 900 11th Street, with just under four acres, which will bring additional space to the campus where the district intends to build the new Red Apple STEAM K-8 school.

Schools acquired by City in property swap

In exchange, the city will acquire ownership of Winslow Elementary School (1.6 acres), Red Apple Elementary School (2.6 acres) and Lorenzo Janes Elementary School (2.1 acres), and property adjacent to Julian Thomas Elementary School.

The city will also get first right of refusal to purchase Dr. Beatrice O. Jones Elementary School in the future, should it go on the market.

The city will not take ownership of the schools immediately. Instead, the receipt will be staggered, beginning in 2024, in a process that is expected to take three years.

The staggered acquisition will allow the district to continue using the schools while it moves forward with the construction and renovation of existing schools.

For example, the district will continue to use Janes Elementary during the renovation of Jerstad-Agerholm School. After Jerstad-Agerholm is completed, the city will take possession of Janes Elementary.

No plans, yet, for the future of the buildings

Mayor Cory Mason said while there are no specific plans for the future use of the schools included in the property swap, there are many possibilities.

He pointed out that communities across the country are finding new uses for old schools, for both retail and residential use. He pointed to the Lincoln Apartments, 1130 Carlisle Ave., the former Lincoln School, as an example.

“We’ve seen it work where old school buildings, particularly ones with beautiful Cream City brick, can be repurposed and have a second life as residential capacity,” Mason said while adding the city certainly had need of more housing options.

Acquisition not without concerns

Alderman Jeffrey Peterson, however, was concerned the old buildings would become money pits that would cost the city to tear down. He was also concerned about the cost of potential asbestos abatement that might be required if the buildings were renovated.

“All those old buildings are loaded with asbestos,” he said.

He voted against the property swap.

Alderman Melissa Kaprelian questioned whether the Department of Public Works would have the staff necessary to provide upkeep to the properties once the city took ownership.

RUSD acquires Franklin Park in property swap

City approves property swap with RUSD
Architectural renderings of the proposed Red Apple STEAM K-8 school. The new school is being made possible by the property swap with the City of Racine and RUSD. – Credit: RUSD

The new Red Apple STEAM K-8 school will be built on the grounds of the former Franklin School, which was demolished in 2021.

According to Stacy Tapp, RUSD communications director, the Franklin Park space will allow the district to expand the Red Apple campus for additional parking and recreation space for the students.

Tapp said Red Apple families and staff are excited about the expansion to a K-8 school.

There are many benefits for families, she said, pointing out that siblings will be able to stay together at the same school for a longer period of time, which will be appreciated by the grown-ups in charge of transportation.

She said there will also be opportunities for mentorships between the older and younger students.

The new construction is one of the 2020 referendum projects. The school board voted in December to authorize up to $55 million for the project; however, the final budget for the project has not been authorized.

The district’s master plan anticipated the phasing out of the city’s middle schools in favor of K-8 schools, due in part to declining enrollment.


The measure passed 10-1, with Jeffrey Peterson voting in opposition.

Alderman Jeff Coe, Amanda Paffrath, Maurice Horton and Terry McCarthy were absent.

City approves property swap with RUSD
Alderman Jeffrey Peterson voted against the property swap, raising concerns the city was acquiring “money pits.” – Credit: Dee Hölzel

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