Seeking to relocate the city’s preschool, administrative offices and school bus transportation office —all now situated in the Fuller school building — the city formally requested proposals for a new site to host the programs and offices, posting their request Wednesday morning.
The School Committee had hoped to see preschoolers waving a final goodbye to Fuller at the start of this school year, but now are aiming to empty the Fuller school building by this fall, citing “sporadic” heating in the building, leaks in the infrastructure, handicap accessibility issues and subpar security, according to School Committee Chairman Jonathan Pope.
“Our goal is to not have the preschool in the Fuller building come September,” Pope said. “If we can get the other functions out of there, then that’s a bonus. But we really want to get the preschool out.”
The school committee voted unanimously to issue the request for proposals, which specifies that an applicant’s property should be handicap accessible and available for a three year lease period, with the option to add a one-year renewal twice at the city’s sole discretion. The request for proposals does not specify a square footage request or provide any information about rent pricing.
The state mandates that Gloucester maintain a preschool to serve special needs children between the ages of nearly 3 up to kindergarten age. And that pool is growing in Gloucester, according to Pope, who said 16 or 17 students were referred to the Gloucester preschool in the same period of time that the city has typically seen 6 or 7 referrals.
”There was a big jump. We’re expecting more kids anyway, which makes it even more urgent that we have a facility,” Pope said.
The School Committee had applied for a grant to move the preschool into the Pathways building on Emerson Avenue, but that grant was denied, according to Pope. Without the grant, the city did not have funds to renovate the unfinished portions of the Pathways building where they had hoped to relocate, which left the committee searching hurriedly for solutions, Pope said.