, Gloucester, MA


January 2, 2013

Editorial: Fuller temp use critical to any new school project

The “memorandum of understanding” between Gloucester’s School Committee and the office of Mayor Carolyn Kirk ceding control over the use of Fuller School to the folks at City Hall is no surprise.

In fact, logic held that the School Committee, rightfully or not, has viewed Fuller as a piece of “excess property” for months — or since talks first got serious about what still seems an ill-conceived single new elementary school aimed at replacing the current West Parish. The only surprise is that it’s taken this long to get such an agreement in place.

In effect, state officials had reportedly balked at earlier steps by the city to push the School Building Administration for a new school project funding, largely because it perceived the city as already having plenty of viable space at Fuller. Now, with Fuller deemed “excess,” and with the city shutting down heat and otherwise allowing Fuller to go to rot, the path seems clear toward a new elementary school building — whether resident taxpayers want it or not.

Yet one provision in the memorandum raises a question that the city will need to address, regardless of whether Gloucester school officials get the state’s green light to build a new West Parish, or to merely carry out extensive renovations to the current facility. That’s the notion that Fuller, by necessity, may have a year or so of school use left, whether city officials want to admit it or not.

That necessity would come if or when the city actually begins work on any West Parish proposal. Presuming that a new school would be built on the same site — and there’s adequate space to do so behind the existing building — the question then arises as to whether a new school construction could safely be carried out behind the school, while students continue to occupy the current building. If so, there’s seemingly no problem; if no, then Fuller would be the only school building that could handle West Parish’s roughly 380-student population — the largest in the city.

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