Yes, the city of Gloucester is required to put out a formal “request for proposals” in its search to find a new home for its preschool, along with its Fuller School mates, the school administration offices and bus transportation operation.
The city and school officials shouldn’t have far to go to seek out an ideal site for at least the preschool and school offices. It’s right across the Route 128 Extension from Fuller, in the Blackburn Industrial Park building that until January housed the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School.
Truth be told, the fact that the preschool remains in the Fuller building right now is appalling. While there is every reason for school and city officials to consider Fuller for a renovation project and revitalization as a consolidated elementary school, the fact is the city’s shameful efforts to make it as uninhabitable as possible for state school building panel consumption have proven so successful that it continues to offer “sporadic” heating, leaks in the infrastructure and an assortment of other problems, School Committee Chairman Jonathan Pope concedes. And the fact that the city hasn’t been ordered by state school officials or even the Department of Children and Families at this point to get the preschool kids out of the facility is stunning in and of itself.
The charter school meanwhile, offers a virtually brand-new school building redeveloped to accommodate some 200 students — a figure that virtually matches the city’s beleaguered Veterans Memorial School just down the road. But while the city doesn’t seem the least bit interested in exploring a lease for Veterans students or some other elementary school, the charter site holds immense potential as the new preschool, with the school district administration alongside just as it is now.
Much, of course, will depend on building owner Mick Lafata’s interest in working with the city — and he’d had every reason not to, given the way some city school officials and others showed such shameful disdain for the charter school when it was up and very much running. But if he’s willing to let those bygones be, and he and the city can carve out a viable lease, his building could offer the city and its preschool far better facilities than it has ever had to date.
Let’s hope those talks start soon.