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April 11, 2013

Editorial: Any new study of school buildings must include Fuller

All things considered, it’s not a bad idea for Mayor Carolyn Kirk and the Gloucester School Committee to ask the City Council to fund half of a new $120,000 study that would yield a report on the physical conditions of the city’s elementary schools.

Also, considering the city has already carried out such a study of West Parish School — and is currently funding a council-approved $500,000 feasibility study that will tell us whether the state’s School Building Authority recommends building a new school for West Parish’s current population or renovating that 65-year-old facility — there’s clearly no need to take yet another look at that building.

There is, however, no reason not to include the conditions and potential renovation costs of the Fuller School building in such an independent study — except, of course, the fact that neither the mayor nor her school board colleagues want to talk about its potential school use.

That’s too bad. For, like it or not, a number of city residents and some officials — notably Bruce Tobey — believe that Fuller should be very much in the picture as a potential consolidated school to house at least two of the city’s current elementary programs. And one of the missing links in this entire picture is the projected cost of doing so.

Look, such a study might ultimately show that the cost of restoring Fuller as a school would not be viable as the city moves forward with its big-picture school district of the future. Then again, it might not. And if the city is going to look into the needs of Veterans Memorial, Beeman Memorial, Plum Cove, or East Gloucester schools, it owes it to residents to do a future-looking study of Fuller as well.

All of this, of course, lines up with the fact that school officials seem bent on building a new West Parish without ever going to city voters for their approval — or even a true recommendation. Thankfully, Tobey is looking to sidetrack that voter snub by proposing a non-binding referendum on Gloucester’s school project on the city ballot in November, when voters will already face a similar referendum regarding Fuller’s future uses.

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