Gloucester's city councilors unanimously approved seeking a $500,000 loan for a feasibility study for the West Parish School building project last night in front of an applauding crowd of parents and school officials.
Councilors said they voted for the $500,000 loan to advance the building — or rebuilding — of West Parish Elementary School through the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The school, they said, desperately needs renovation if not a new building and is in the worst condition of any school, save Fuller.
The loan will cover expenses of the MSBA-mandated feasibility study.
The study will consider West Parish and its needs from the electrical outlets up, said Mayor Carolyn Kirk, and looks at the needs of the broader district as well. The study, she said, after checking with MSBA is reimbursed at just over 48 percent, regardless of whether the city moves forward with the project.
"The question is, is it time for a new West Parish School?" said Ward 5 City Councilor Greg Verga, "The answer is Harry Truman. Harry Truman was president when the West Parish School was built (in 1948)."
Verga, who chaired the School Committee before being elected to the Council in 2009, said that, when the city commissioned the Mt. Vernon Group study of the school facilities in 2002, the study indicated the school had outlived its useful life even then.
Parents and school officials joined councilors in calling for a new school building and the preservation of the city's small, community, elementary schools.
Maria Zervos, parent of a West Parish third grade student said that, even through the new school won't be built before her daughter moves on to O'Maley Middle School, it's important for that school community. Moving forward on the West Parish School, she said indicates that the city's committed to its public school system
"We have to assume that portions of our infrastructure need to be replaced," said John Pease, a West Parish parent (CHECK), "our elementary schools no longer meet the needs of students to say the least."
While councilors approved the funding, Councilor Bruce Tobey said that the city and district need to come up with a comprehensive plan to meet the needs of all the district buildings, not just West Parish.
"It's a worthy project, worthy of being done right with the needs of students now and the needs of students over the next 20 years taken into consideration," Tobey said.
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Steven Fletcher can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3455, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.