Family Practice building

Kearney Public Schools was set to purchase the former Family Practice building at 3907 Sixth Ave. today for $1.7 million.

KEARNEY — Kearney Public Schools will spend $1.7 million to purchase property for a new nontraditional education center that could open as early as this summer.

The school board approved the purchase Monday night.

The new Hanny Arram Center for Success will be a cooperative effort between KPS and the Arram Family Foundation, housed at the former Family Practice Associates building, 3907 Sixth Ave. The facility will provide various alternative education programs, including counseling, mentoring, support for suspended students and a virtual academy for students in grades 6-12.

Board members shared during the meeting that the Arram Family Foundation and KPS have worked for the past several months on the project. Arram Equities is selling the building to KPS under its assessed value of $2.25 million, a figure provided by a “mutually agreed upon appraiser,” according to KPS Superintendent Kent Edwards.

“The foundation has been looking at opportunities to help students in a nontraditional way, whether that be by after-school tutoring or counseling or something along those lines, but something to help make (students) successful in whatever their situation may be,” said Nadia Arram Saadi, foundation director and acting president of the Arram Family Foundation. “So then, it was kind of a back-and-forth conversation with KPS. We purchased the building that they are purchasing a couple of years ago, and the more we talked about those particular issues, the more we saw that that particular building was an ideal location for that type of a setting.”

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Buffalo County records show that the Arram Equities purchased the property from Family Practice Associates in 2017 for $1.81 million. In 2019, the property’s assessed tax value was $1.081 million.

KPS will close on the purchase today.

Recently elected board President Kathy Gifford, a retired KPS teacher, said a facility like this has been a need in Kearney since she came to the district in 1994.

KPS currently has some alternative education programs housed at the Kearney Education Center, 1511 Fifth Ave., formerly Kenwood Elementary School. Board member Alex Straatmann said that this purchase would allow the program to expand, helping a larger number of students in a wider age range.

“This is providing a space for students that may not otherwise have an opportunity to succeed in education, and to be able to expand that not only to the rest of the high school, but to our middle school students will really leave a lasting legacy, and to be able to have a generous donation paired with money that we already have will allow us to begin working on this right away,” Straatmann said.

In addition to the purchase agreement, the board of education also approved a perpetual and exclusive naming agreement that states the building always must have “Hanny Arram” in the name.

Former Family Practice building

KPS will have to renovate the former medical facility before the building is able to be used for educational purposes. No cost estimates on the renovations are yet available.

Multiple board members thanked the Arram family while the meeting was in session, and once both motions had passed, members gave the family a standing ovation.

Edwards said the purchase of the property is only the first step in opening the new alternative education center.

Cost estimates on the renovation work are not yet available, and will not be available until the district decides what programs the facility will house once completed and which programs will first be housed there. Making these decisions will be the district’s next step.

At capacity, the district plans to house a variety of programs at the center, including career education, social-emotional learning and course credit recovery.

Once the programs are chosen, the district will identify what renovations need to be made to the former medical facility, likely with the help of an architectural firm and a contractor.

These renovations likely will be completed in stages. At this point, the district has an “ambitious” goal, Edwards said, of opening the building in August 2020.

Straatmann said the board will begin working on this project at its retreat meeting set for 6 p.m. Sunday.

Also at Monday night’s meeting, the board:

- Reorganized for the new year with Gifford serving as president, Wendy Kreis as vice president and Drew Blessing as secretary.

- Approved the first reading of a change to the district’s release of contract policy, moving up a deadline from June 1 to April 15. Employees must now submit a request to be released from their employment contract by the April date; otherwise, the release is at the board’s discretion, largely to determine whether the district can replace the employee for the next school year. Human Resources Director Lance Fuller told the board that the educational hiring season has shifted earlier in the year, necessitating this change in policy.

- Heard a report from Kent Cordes on BD Construction’s work at Sunrise Middle School and Kearney High School. The work at Kearney High School is on budget, and crews are working at a pace to get the project closer to original schedule after delays last year. The work at Sunrise continues to be completed on budget and on schedule.