GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

June 28, 2013

City zeroes in on charter site for pre-school

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — The Gloucester Community Arts Charter School closed its doors to students in January, but the once bustling building might fill with students again this fall, with city administrators seriously eyeing a proposal to move everyone left at the Fuller school building to the Blackburn Industrial Park facility.

If it becomes reality, the move would mean that the school district’s administrators, the city’s preschoolers and the school transportation department would head over to the former charter school building by September.

The School Committee formalized its request at the end of May, voting unanimously to affirm that the 2 Blackburn Drive building would fit the city’s needs for a preschool, administrative offices and transportation department. So, the School Committee turned to the city administration to fund the rent.

“What we’re doing now is trying to find a way to honor the School Committee’s request,” Mayor Carolyn Kirk said Thursday. “We are taking the steps to accommodate their request.”

City administrators are in talks with the building owner, Kirk confirmed. She hopes to reach a conclusion in the next week or so.

School Committee members toured the 21,290-square-foot building in May, viewing the colorful classrooms previously occupied by more than 120 charter school students.

”We looked at it and we said this would be acceptable to us, but we don’t have the money to rent it,” School Committee Chair Jonathan Pope said.

The building’s owner, Mick Lafata, was the only respondent to the city’s request for building proposals in the spring. His request suggested a base bid for the building set at about $342,878 per year. He met with city officials and discussed a lease figure that would amount closer to $260,802 annually.

While Mayor Kirk hopes to determine whether or not the city can rent the building, Lafata said Thursday he would like to see the school set up in the building by a few weeks before the start of the school year.

”Everything’s cleaned, everything’s waxed, everything’s polished, everything’s ready to go,” Lafata said.

Lafata said he was working with a realtor and was in the process of putting the building up for sale or lease when the city approached him about his request. Satisfied by the city’s interest, Lafata said he decided against advertising for sale or lease.

”It’s a great building for what they’re looking for, the administrative offices and the preschools and the busing,” Lafata said. “I think it has everything they need and more, and I’m hoping for a long fruitful relationship, but I understand that the commitment to start off with is only for three years.”

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.