, Gloucester, MA


May 17, 2013

Editorial: Consultant's grim findings reopen need for school ideas


That, in essence, is the finding of the city’s school building architectural consultant not only for the Fuller School building, but for the current, 65-year-old West Parish School as well.

But while those reports may, to some extent play right into the hands of those city and school officials who wanted to let Fuller shamefully slip into such disrepair that it could never again house schoolchildren — and they wouldn’t have to heed residents’ calls for its reuse – the fact that it’s now seen as potentially useless for perhaps any other venture as well throws a real curve ball into the city’s and School Committee’s current school building scheme. And that’s driven home even more so by Dore & Whitter’s finding that the city’s desired site for a new West Parish — on the same grounds as the current one — may not be viable, either, even as that school also falls into greater and greater disarray.

With that, school and city officials must now come to grips with two realities:

Their plan to build on the same West Parish site while perhaps temporarily shifting the students there to a moderately renovated Fuller is a non-starter — thanks in large part to their letting both schools essentially fall to rot and ruin.

The likely need to now raze the Fuller building for any use – whether as a public safety facility, a potential YMCA, a commercial property or, yes, a consolidated elementary school — creates a scenario in which all of those options should be wide open for a rebuilding on the site.

The real shame of this “benign neglect, or worse” — as Councilor Bruce Tobey very aptly put it — is that school officials who thought they were being smart in ignoring any maintenance or even basic operational repairs at Fuller are now about to throw their own school district into temporary chaos.

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