As the School Committee continues talking about whether to turn over Fuller School to the city, both the committee and Mayor Carolyn Kirk's administration are putting out surveys to ask residents what they think.
The city's survey will ask what kinds of uses residents would like to see for Fuller School and other municipal buildings.
The move comes, Kirk said, after the city last summer decided against a putting a question regarding the Fuller building's future on the 2011 ballot. A mailed survey, she added, would better address that question.
The School Department's survey will ask parents and the school community if they want to continue with the district's neighborhood school model, or consolidate, said School Committee Vice Chairwoman Val Gilman.
Both surveys mark steps toward the School Department's decision to declare Fuller as surplus property with an eye toward building a new elementary school to replace West Parish Elementary, and toward the city's decision on what to do with the Fuller property afterward.
The School Department survey, Gilman said, will head out at the end of February. The city's, Kirk said, will go out in the spring.
Kirk said that, on whole, both surveys will cost $15,000; $5,000 for the school's and $10,000 for the city's.
"There's a long road ahead for all these decisions," said Kirk.
Superintendent of Schools Richard Safier said Friday that the School Committee's survey would ask residents within the school community what direction they want to go in terms the educational design of the school district. He said the district will get the survey moving as soon as possible.
"Our intention is to (put out) the survey as quickly as we can put it together," he said.
Kirk sent a letter to the Gloucester Public School District and the School Committee on Jan. 18 requesting the committee declare the property surplus for city use. She said the city has made investments in the neighborhood school model of education, rather than consolidating into one large elementary school at Fuller.
"Today, Fuller sits largely empty and at great cost to the city. Those dollars are far better off directed towards the vibrant schools that are serving the educational program," Kirk stated in the letter, "I ask you to move swiftly, yet deliberately."
The survey, Gilman said, does precisely that.
She said the School Department's survey would give the school community — parents, guardians and teachers—- a chance to tell the district what they think about the neighborhood schools. The district chose to go with a neighborhood school model around 2005, after undertaking a Planning/Perfecting Learning communities study.
"We're looking to validate that we want to stay on this course," said Gilman.
The committee, she added, won't make a decision on Fuller from an educational perspective until the data comes back in. While the School Department's willing to stay the course with neighborhood schools, she said, they need the school community's input.
School Committee Kathy Clancy said she her colleagues also have to find places for the administrative offices and preschool program, both located at Fuller.
The district has applied for a $500,000 Community Innovation Challenge grant from the new $50 million pool of federal Race to the Top dollars recently allocated to the state.
That money would go toward building a preschool addition behind Pathways For Children on Emerson Avenue.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.