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SBU to Sell Salem Facility, Lease Back Space to Continue Degree Programs

Southwest Baptist University and the Salem R-80 Board of Education have reached an agreement to strengthen educational offerings in the community. The school district intends to purchase the Gott Center for Christian Education for $750,000 and lease it back to university for $1 per year. SBU will continue to offer degree programs through the campus. 

On Tuesday, October 17th, SBU’s Board of Trustees authorized the university to sell the property and the Salem R-80 Board voted Thursday, October 19th in closed session to purchase the facility.  

“This agreement is a win-win for both SBU and Salem,” said Dr. Rick Melson, President of SBU. “The Salem school district will gain needed space to cost-effectively expand, and SBU will retain efficient use of the Gott Center for Education. We are proud of over thirty years of partnership and eager to continue making higher education investments in Salem for the future.” 

Dr. Lynne Reed, Superintendent of Salem R-80, agreed and said the transaction provides a cost-effective way to address its needs. 

“This is an amazing opportunity for the District as we face escalating costs for new construction,” Dr. Reed said. “The District has been committed to replacing William Lynch for several years and this endeavor allows us to make that happen sooner rather than later. We look forward to partnering with SBU to allow them to continue to provide higher education opportunities for the community.” 

In addition to the LPN bridge program in nursing, SBU offers associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in business, education, criminal justice, psychology, and health sciences on the Salem campus. Courses will continue to be offered face-to-face or through video conference in the evenings after sale of the building is completed.  

The Salem school district has not finalized plans, but has discussed moving administrative offices, preschool, first grade, and kindergarten classes into the building.  

"This is an exciting opportunity for the Salem school district to acquire the Gott building, which will save the district money versus new construction to replace William Lynch, and to partner with SBU to further the educational opportunities of our students,” said Steven Patterson, President of the Salem R-80 Board. 

The purchase is scheduled to be completed in Spring 2024, after which time work will begin to make the space ready for Salem R-80 use. 

 “The acquisition of this facility illustrates our board’s commitment to growing our students for the future” said Dr. Nathan Wills, assistant superintendent. “There is still work to be done, but this is a giant step in the right direction.” 

Jessica Parker, a Pre-K teacher for Salem R-80, said the possibility of early childhood education having a new home would create new opportunities for collaboration among multiple grade levels to benefit students. 

“The early childhood center proposal is an exciting idea that I hope comes to fruition,” she said. “What an amazing opportunity for the Salem community!”