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April 10, 2013

School officials eye new study

With the feasibility study for West Parish Elementary School roaring along, the School Committee and Mayor Carolyn Kirk are now looking to the city to fund half of a $120,000 formal “assessment” of the condition of Gloucester’s other four functioning elementary schools.

According to City Council documents, the School Committee intends to hire an architect to evaluate the educational programming capabilities and physical condition at each of four schools, which include Veterans’ Memorial, East Gloucester, Plum Cove and Beeman.

To the dismay of some, however, the committee would not assess the Fuller school building that the committee declared surplus in January, but still uses to house a preschool, administrative offices and the school transportation office.

“What we should be talking about is a comprehensive assessment of every elementary school the city now owns, whether in use or in moth balls, so that we do a fair, objective and comprehensive look,” City Councilor Bruce Tobey said in an interview Tuesday.

Tobey, who has been outspoken in urging the council to seek community input on the reuse of Fuller as a school, said the school committee is “serving the city poorly” by “acquiescing in the destruction” of Fuller school.

“On one hand, we have a rush to judgment to build a trophy school in West Gloucester, whether we need it or not, and on the other hand to proceed hell bent to abandon one of our solid structures, Fuller school, and that is irresponsible,” Tobey said.

School Committee chair Jonathan Pope said the Massachusetts School Building Authority has assessed West Parish already as part of plans to rebuild the school and has seen Fuller school building. The MSBA, which will pay 48 percent of the cost of rebuilding, renovating or otherwise relocating West Parish, could consider renovating Fuller and moving West Parish students there.

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