18.08 School Property, Acquisition And Disposition Of


Private School

A private school is one which is owned, supported and managed by a group of individuals or by a private corporation.

The powers and authority of persons or entity which controls a private school are either provided by statute or set out in its character or incorporation, trust agreement or internal rules of the religious denomination.

Absent any kind of statutory restriction private schools may acquire, encumber, lease or sell real property according to the provisions their charters, trust agreements or internal rules of denomination.


Public Schools

A public school district is a subordinate agency, subdivision, or instrumentality of the state. It is not in itself a sovereign power, but is a creature of the legislature. All of its powers are expressly granted by or implied from state statutes.

In some states, school districts are treated as public or quasi-public corporations.

·  Acquisition of Real Property

School districts may be granted or delegated the authority to acquire property and construct facilities to be used for school purposes. School districts generally acquire property through the competitive bidding process or by deed, bequest, gift, condemnation, or some other like method. Even though actual ownership may rest with the state, title to school property may be placed with the local district or other political subdivisions as trustee.

Generally, the laws governing the acquisition of school property are the same as those controlling the acquisition of any property for public use. Even though the district and the state have absolute title to property, their title is not private title. It remains public property to be used by the public with only reasonable restrictions imposed by the state.

A school district has no inherent power of eminent domain. It can only exercise said power when authorized and in the manner expressed by the legislature. Generally, absent express authority, land already devoted to public use cannot be taken for school purposes.

The legislature itself has implied power to purchase land for a school site, and when authorized by statute, school districts or school boards or officers have also power to purchase lands for school purposes.

A conveyance of land to be held “as long as it is used for school purposes” creates a reversionary interest in the grantor or his heirs or assigns even though there is no express provision to that effect.

·  Sale of Real Property

School property can only be disposed of by express statutory authority.

State law establishes the proceedings to be followed and the requirements to be complied with in regard to the sale of school property.

In absence of statutory authority, a sale of public school realty is invalid. Under some statutes, school officials can only sell a school land when directed by public vote to do so.

Care should be exercised when school land is sold in determining that the former owner of the property did not retain a right of reversion in the land if the land ceased to be used for school purposes. Under either the terms of such conveyance or under some statutes, land reverts to the former owner when it ceases to be used for school purposes.