, Gloucester, MA

May 10, 2013

Charter school site talks open wide variety of options

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — The word that city and Gloucester school officials visited the former Gloucester Community Arts Charter School this week, with eyes on considering it as a site for the school district’s pre-school, administration offices and other uses represents good news on a number of counts – even if property owner Mick Lafata was the only respondent to a formal city request for proposals, or RFP.

For one thing, it shows that city and school officials may have finally recognized the educational gem that a barely 21/2-year-old school can provide for the city. For another, it would finally find homes for the programs and offices that have continued to pose obstacles to fully discussing the future of the Fuller School building. And, by touring the charter school facility, city and school officials may well see other potential the arts school has to offer, including as a home for one of the current elementary schools as part of a needed consolidation.

Physically, the building had provided a bright, comfortable and sparkling new learning environment for the GCACS students and teachers alike. And while the school could accommodate a Gloucester elementary school right now — it has roughly the same capacity, especially, as the 200-student Veterans Memorial, which needs help — it also seems a good fit for the pre-school, along with the additional school offices.

All of that, of course, would finally leave Fuller wide open for a variety of options – including for public safety facilities or commercial use. It also must still be on the table as a renovated and consolidated elementary school that could house 2-3 of the current schools, as an alternative to building a new West Parish and replacing all of the other schools, one costly step at a time, over the next decade or more. And that type of district reconfiguration would free up other buildings for either sale or for city office use.

One factor, of course, will likely be the cost. And that will have to be weighed against the gains the city would achieve by backing away from its other leasing needs, most notably at its Pond Road offices.

But when it comes to finding new homes for its pre-school, administration offices – or perhaps another school program that would set a tone for needed consolidation — this will be as good a facility as the city can land.

Let’s hope this project not only moves forward, but on a fast track.