GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

January 31, 2013

Editorial: Charter school site offers opportunities for city, schools

The issue confronting Mick Lafata — who owns what, until a few weeks ago, had been a bustling Gloucester Community Arts Charter School – is purely a business matter.

While one can argue that the state Department of Education, which provided the charter’s funding, pulled the rug out from under Lafata when it essentially forced the school’s trustees to surrender its charter, the city certainly has no liability or reason to want to bail out the 2 Blackburn Drive property owner.

And Lafata seems to understand that. “I have to chalk this up as a company came in, they signed the lease, they went belly up, and I’m stuck with the lease,” he says — a lease on which he’s now more than $1 million at $35,000 a month over what would have been its full five-year term.

But while that would be far too costly for the city or its taxpayers, and any deal would have to be negotiated downward, it’s also frankly hard to understand why city and school official aren’t expressing some interest in making use of what physically looms as the city’s newest, best-designed and best-built educational facility — and a very rare commodity to make its way onto any real estate market.

So as local officials look into options for a costly West Parish school building project without any sense of whether it has any support among residents — and while the future use of the former Fuller School building remains very much up in the air — they should at least put aside their childish distrust of all things charter and consider the opportunities this facility would seem to offer.

At the very least, the charter building could be an ideal home for Gloucester’s pre-school, whose lack of a new home, officials say, is one of the issues clogging up any movement on Fuller.

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