, Gloucester, MA

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April 17, 2013

Letter: School project needs 'change of course'

As I took my seat at the council table before our April 10 meeting, I saw a memo from the mayor before me.

My eyes flashed straight to its last paragraph, which stated that “the city of Gloucester needs to make an informed decision about how to address this important problem, and the administration looks forward to a more comprehensive review and analysis of options, and a formal plan, all of which is inclusive of citizen input.”

“Hallelujah,” I thought to myself, “we’re going to do a full study of the condition and needs of all our elementary school buildings, including Fuller School, before we jump into the construction of a new West Parish School.”

Then I checked the subject line of the mayor’s memo and saw it was an announcement of her rejection of a Board of Health recommendation that the City join the Northeast Mosquito Control District. The mosquitoes were safe, but the integrity of the city’s capital planning processes was not. The joke was on me.

The latest development in the ongoing saga of the future of Fuller School unfolded at that same meeting – a request that the City join the School Department in commissioning a $120,000 comprehensive review of the City’s elementary schools so “we will have a solid grasp of and a blueprint for the district’s entire elementary school program over the next decade.”

But the scope of the study is limited to Veterans, East Gloucester, Beeman and Plum Cove elementary schools. Moth-balled Fuller School is not included; so much for comprehensive.

I urge folks to take a drive up to Fuller School and do what I recently did myself – take a good look at it. What is structurally one of the most solidly-built buildings the city owns is being systematically destroyed by willful neglect. A once vibrant facility that, in its time, served so well the kids of Gloucester’s downtown Wards 2 and 3 now more resembles the set of an urban scene in one of those post-apocalyptic movies.

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