, Gloucester, MA

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May 16, 2013

Fuller, W. Parish failing

Building consultant scrambles city plans

The architectural firm hired by the city in March to create a proposal for winning financial school building help from the state has delivered a discouraging report in slides and words, but is proceeding to develop options with costs for relieving the overcrowding of West Parish School.

Within a few weeks, Dore & Whittier is expected to present the first firm estimates and options for consideration by residents and the city before the School Building Committee for the West Parish School expresses a preference — a decision officials now expect to submit to the Massachusetts School Building Authority early next year. If it gains state approval, the city would then have 120 days to secure its share of the financing.

The state agency’s contribution is roughly 49 percent, with the city on the hook for the remainder. As to the level of that remainder, Dore & Whittier are not even giving guesstimates.

The most optimistic scenario, officials said, is to have an agreement with the state in about a year, and a new school for 2016 fall term. But the worst of the problems — all carefully described by consultants, as preliminary, but laid out with blunt force are that:

-- Built as a parochial high school in 1965, the former Fuller Elementary School building is not only unsuited by size and design to become a school again after five years of abandonment, and may be unsalvageable for any role, due to rot, decay, structural failures, mold, mildew and asbestos.

-- The 65-year old West Parish School, built with a wooden roof and jury-rigged with additions twice in its long life, is now below multiple building codes and filled to overflowing with exposed electrical wires running along hallways, is not much better off, and that there is little reason to believe rehabbing this wreck of school will turn out to the preferred alternative.

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