, Gloucester, MA

January 22, 2013

Letter: Fuller's best use remains as a school

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

This is an open letter to the mayor, City Council, and School Committee:

Since the Fuller “school” option was taken away from voter referendum, it is time for this local taxpayer to stand up and support the reuse of Fuller as a city school.

Fuller School has large classrooms, a real library, real cafeteria, real gym, real music room, an art room, computer lab, a real auditorium and they are all really nice! Fuller stands alone with highest of quality construction and unmatched facility features.

My support for the school is built on real memories, experiences, activities and opportunities afforded to previous students like myself that are specific to facility advantages the Fuller complex offers its students and community not found in any other elementary school.

We were informed recently it would cost $44,000 more annually to provide the same service as a combined Beeman and Veterans, for example. But if we are citing exaples for consoliodation, West Parish should be automatically be considered in any such plans.

Maybe we should combine the two largest, two oldest, or two most inefficient schools? In its present condition, Fuller is admittedly inefficient, but so aren’t the other elementary schools. Should we throw them all away, too?

There are significant cost implications of dumping Fuller. There’s moving the pre-school, the administration offices, and the transportation department. Money to renovate, to build, to move, and to maintain spaces for those departments that we don’t have.

If we had extra space, it would stand to reason those departments would be moved by now, and the city wouldn’t be spending almost $100,000 annually for city hall annex space, and $3.5 million would not have been spent on modular classroom space. By the way, what are we going to do with those modular classrooms in 8 years when their rated life expectancy of 12 years is reached?

Replacing West Parish School (circa 1949) will cost $20 to $30 million. The Gloucester taxpayer will be on the hook for $10 to $15 million after state reimbursement. Only then could West Parish claim facilities present at Fuller School – a school we already have!

What about all our other elementary schools? They will need similar replacement or significant renovation soon. East Gloucester opened in 1948, Beeman in 1956, Veterans in 1956, Plum Cove in 1966.

The price tag for short-term reuse of Fuller is seen as $5 million, however, long-term reuse of Fuller could be $10 to $15 million — the same price tag as an MSBA approved 355 student West Parish, less than half of Fuller’s 750. West Parish’s current enrollment is higher than 355 — will we have purchase another modular? What about future growth throughout the system?

This taxpayer does not support the West Parish project. The Plan for Effective Learning Communities (PELC), which guides the city’s small school plan, doesn’t consider present school building inventory, economic factors, and future system growth very specific and different for each school system. Have we sealed a PELC deal with the devil? Are we not allowed to slightly deviate from an otherwise solid vision because it’s the right thing to do for our students, taxpayers, and community?

The Gloucester School Committee’s own website regarding PELC references the smaller school advantage being simulated right here, right now, in our community! Quoting the School Committee: “This smaller school configuration is similar to the existing house structure of the O’Maley Middle School which is consistent with a smaller school feel, within a larger school.”

If our own School Committee references smaller school feel using the house structure at O’Maley, why can’t the same house structure work at Fuller School?

Once you get rid of an asset, you can never get it back. Fuller School’s superior construction, newer bones, facility luxuries, current tenants, lack of modular classrooms, and room for future school system growth makes one thing clear to this taxpayer:.

Dumping Fuller from our current pool of elementary schools makes the least sense for our students, taxpayers, and community.