A controversial site is no longer under consideration for a new Pipkin Middle School building.
The Springfield Public Schools Board of Education voted last night unanimously, 7-0, not to pursue the purchase of a 20.9-acre site at 3207 E. Pythian St., SPS officials told news media in a Zoom conference today. The board voted in favor of the purchase in March, according to past reporting.
The district had hoped to break ground next year on a replacement for the century-old Pipkin Middle School building, located at 1215 N. Boonville Ave. However, plans to purchase the Pythian Street property were met with opposition – from members of the public, from the city Planning & Zoning Commission and staff, and from officials with the BNSF Railway, whose rail line crosses the single road leading to the site.
The decision follows a five-month period of due diligence, officials said.
The district is releasing the property without closing on the purchase from owner 4G’s Investments-B LLC, registered through the law firm of Kirkland Woods & Martinsen LLP.
Other site-specific costs spent to date include $272,250 in civil engineering, including survey, design and construction documents and a traffic study, as well as geotechnical and environmental studies and earnest money of $25,000, according to Chief Communications Officer Stephen Hall.
“As you know, we’re well into the design for this project, so the civil work specifically that’s taken place up to this point, obviously those are going to be costs that we will essentially duplicate moving forward with a new project,” said Travis Shaw, deputy superintendent of operations for SPS.
The district is continuing its search for new property for Pipkin, officials say. In keeping with recommendations of the Community Task Force on Facilities, the site should be within the boundaries of the current Pipkin service area and should be at least 10 acres to provide improved parking and pickup and expanded outdoor facilities.
In July, the city’s P&Z Commission, whose opinions are merely advisory for SPS under state law and city charter, voted 6-1 against the Pythian site. City officials say in their review of the plan that the site is zoned industrial and does not fit the Forward SGF comprehensive plan as a suitable site for a school.
City staff, too, recommended denial of the Pythian site on the basis of its non-adherence to the comprehensive plan. The development review staff report said Forward SGF seeks to preserve neighborhood schools, noting they are “an essential component of an urban neighborhood and source of pride and neighborhood cohesion.”
Both staff and P&Z members raised concerns about the industrial nature of the site, located adjacent to the 3M manufacturing plant.
Shaw said while the problems of the site were not insurmountable, they were going to be expensive to address.
Superintendent Grenita Lathan said though the Pythian plan has been jettisoned, the process played out very well.
“This is how a process should work – a collaborative process with our board of education, with administration and also with community input, and we feel very good about the decision that we’ve made,” she said.
Board President Danielle Kincaid agreed.
“All seven of us come to the board with unique backgrounds and unique skills, and we were all in agreement that upon completing due diligence, this was not going to be a viable option any longer,” she said.
Lathan said SPS will continue to look for an ideal location, though there are not currently any prospects.
Shaw said the district has committed to completing all Proposition S projects by the end of 2028.
“We need to be able to at the very latest be starting construction by the beginning of 2027 in order to be able to have this completed by the end of ’28,” he said. “We don’t think it’s going to take anywhere near that long, but given that, we would need to have our property for sure secured by the summer of ’26.”
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