As Career Technical Centers (CTC) offer ever-expanding curricula and training in more advanced and technical fields, there may be a need for new space for hands-on learning and training. Perhaps your district is interested in erecting a lab for manufacturing education, or agricultural space for education in farming technology.
Under the law, school districts are “bodies politic and corporate” “capable of…acquiring, holding, possessing, and disposing of real and personal property.” Just like any city, local, or exempted village school district, vocational districts can purchase and lease land for the erection of education facilities. CTCs may also purchase or lease existing buildings and, as needed, renovate such existing spaces for their purposes. Lease-purchase agreements are also permissible for this purpose. CTCs may also acquire ownership of real property by donation or an exchange agreement. (By law, CTCs have all the authority and powers as city school districts with the exception of certain matters specifically address in the Revised Code pertaining to Chapters 124 (civil service), 3317 (School Foundation Program), 3323 (special education), and 3331 (age and schooling certificates)). There are other means by which a CTC could acquire property that occur less frequently, are less desired, and are entirely context based. These are adverse possession and appropriation (condemnation).
There may be instances where a CTC desires to acquire property not to erect a building for use as classroom space but to facilitate the programming of the CTC. In some instances, this may involve students performing work that is within the scope of their particular program but that also contributes to a private venture.
The applicable statutes refer to a board of education using its powers to acquire property for its own purposes, i.e., for the operations of the district in carrying out its educational mission. There is not any express authority in those statutes for a board to acquire property for non-school purposes or to effectuate a purely private development.
However, there are some attorney general opinions, addressing CTCs in particular, that have allowed a CTC to engage in a private venture so long as there is some connection to the curriculum. See 1976 Op. Atty. Gen. No. 76-065 (A CTC may construct and sell single-family residences on school land. Students erected the homes under supervision as part of the curriculum, and not for pay); 1971 Op. Atty. Gen. No. 71-068 (A school may engage and compete in private enterprise, even at a profit, so long as the program is reasonably necessary to the vocational education curriculum); 1971 Op. Atty. Gen. No. 71-026 (Use of school facilities for serving meals and banquets to community organizations is justified as part of the vocational education curriculum).
1981 Op. Atty. Gen. No. 81-093 opines that a CTC may, pursuant to R.C. 3313.90, enter into an agreement with a nonprofit corporation whereby students of the district would construct a house on property owned by the corporation with materials and equipment furnished at the expense of the corporation, provided that such an agreement is reasonably necessary to fulfill the requirements of the vocational education curriculum. Additionally, that opinion holds that a board of education of a CTC may, as part of a vocational education program, purchase land, construct residential dwellings thereon, and thereafter sell such realty.
What does this mean for your district?
Your board is vested with broad powers to acquire property using several different means. The options available should be carefully considered to ensure which is the best approach for any given project or plan. Attorneys at Ennis Britton stand ready to assist you with achieving your goals in this regard.