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AGO 1949 No. 160 - November 17, 1949
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

SCHOOL SITE -- AUTHORITY TO BUILD ON DONATED PROPERTY

Original school site, plus addition selected by vote, plus gift area, was intended by district electors to constitute a single school site.  An authorization to construct upon site legally selected by electors, includes permission to build on original site and gift addition.

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                                                               November 17, 1949

Honorable Ronald R. Hull
Prosecuting Attorney
Yakima County
Yakima, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 160

Dear Sir:

            We have received your letter of October 8, 1949, in which you ask the following question:

            Is the authority to build under a proposition submitted to and approved by the electors of a third class school district, authorizing the construction of an elementary and grade school upon such site as legally may be selected by the electors of such district, permit the construction of such school on a site composed of the original location, plus a tract previously approved by such electors for purchase by the district as an addition to the original location, plus a three acre tract legally donated and accepted by the district directors as another addition to the original location, where such areas were understood and intended by the voters of the district to constitute a single school site?

            Our conclusions may be summarized as follows:

            The authority to build under such proposition does include permission to build on such a site.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            On September 22, 1949, you requested the opinion of this office regarding the authority of a school district to build on a gift site where the electors had previously approved a different location.  From your letter, it was our  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] understanding that the election of December, 1948, authorized a change of site.  In accord with that understanding, we held in an opinion directed to your office of September 30, 1949, that the selection by the voters of a new site did not authorize construction of a school building on a different site acquired by gift and accepted by directors but not chosen by the electors.  On the facts therein we adhere to the conclusions expressed in that previous opinion.

            Subsequently, you directed our attention to various material circumstances omitted in your original request and asked for a reconsideration of the question in light of these circumstances.  After some investigation and upon receipt of copies of the propositions voted on in December, 1948 and April, 1949, we find that the one plus acre tract [hereafter referred to as the one acre tract], the acquisition of which was authorized by the December election, was intended to be merely an addition to the then present site and was not selected as a new and different location upon which the proposed school was to be entirely constructed.  With that one acre tract, another additional tract was to be acquired by gift and with the original location to form and complete a single school site upon which the directors of the district were to construct a new school building.  That this was the intent of the electors became manifest after an examination of a detailed map of the particular areas involved.

            The single acre tract by itself is inaccessible, and even as an addition to the original area does not meet the Department of Education's standards for an enrollment of a student body now anticipated as over four hundred students.

            Investigation discloses that three meetings were held prior to the December election, at which meetings the electors were advised that specifications required by the Department of Education called for a tract of not less than five acres for the school building and one additional acre for each one hundred students.  They were advised further that the one acre tract submitted for approval as proposition No. 2 in the December election was to be approved as an addition to the original site and not as a change in site.  We believe these meetings represented a thorough presentation to the electors of the issues involved.  Though the bare language of the proposition submitted in the December election indicates an intent to select a new and different site, on the basis of the considerations outlined above, the intent of the electors must have been to select the one acre tract as an addition.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            This determination is one consistent with the results of the April election.  At that election the proposition authorizing a change of site to a location known as the Shaw Tracts failed to receive the two-thirds majority vote necessary for a change of school site, while proposition No. 2 authorizing the construction of an elementary and grade school "upon such site as legally may be selected by the electors" was approved.

            The latter proposition in effect granted authority to construct a new school building on a legally selected site.  Since the one acre area referred to above and the three acre gift tract were intended to supplement the original site, the only legally selected site available is the original location supplemented by the additions to which we have referred.  The directors of the district have, of course, some discretion in determining the exact location of the buildings and grounds as defined by metes and bounds.  They are within that discretion in placing the building partially on the original site and partially on the three acre addition.

            From the foregoing reasons it is, therefore, our opinion that the proposition approved in April, 1949, authorizes construction of a new school building on property composed of part of the original site and part of a gift tract accepted as an addition to the original site.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

LAWRENCE K. McDONNELL
Assistant Attorney General

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