GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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January 1, 2013

Fuller keys now at City Hall

School panel declares it 'surplus,' but ...

Gloucester’s School Committee has formally signed the former Fuller school building over to the control of City Hall, declaring the building as “excess property” from an educational standpoint.

But the agreement still allows for the building to be maintained for use by Gloucester schools, and acknowledges that Fuller could be in temporary use as a substitute school in the future.

A December memorandum of understanding between the school committee and Mayor Carolyn Kirk declares the building “surplus property and no longer needed for educational purposes.”

However, the city agrees to make the building available to West Parish School students should the construction at West Parish require students to be temporarily relocated, as “an assurance to the school committee,” said Kirk.

“That’s all the (agreement) is,” said Kirk, who, as mayor, has a seat on the School Committee. “It is always up to the administration and the school committee to work through facility issues ... the School Committee just wanted some reassurance.”

The city has begun the process of carrying out a $500,000 feasibility study of the West Parish School and its needs through the Massachusetts School Building Authority, with the goal of deciding what to do with the West Parish School that many say needs replacement or major refurbishment.

The city has begun hiring professionals who will conduct the study and the study will likely begin by mid-February, according to Kirk.

Should the West Parish School need to be renovated or razed in favor of a new facility — projected to cost in the range of $20 million to $30 million, with the city collecting a 48 percent reimbursement from the state school building agency, the West Parish students could relocate temporarily to the Fuller school building under terms of the Dec. 12 agreement. But, shifting the students could be pricey, said Kirk, because the Fuller school would need repairs of its own.

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