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August 17, 2013

City inks lease for use of charter site

The city of Gloucester has signed a $240,000-per-year lease with the owner of the former charter school building, and the city school district’s preschoolers, administrators and school bus department are now set to shuffle up to the Blackburn Drive facility, emptying out the Fuller School building for the foreseeable future.

“For all intents and purposes, we’re out,” Mayor Carolyn Kirk said Friday.

The actual condition of the Fuller school building has stirred heated debate at public hearings and among city councilors, with some people pushing for the building’s repair and others for the city to sell it, but Kirk said the move would benefit the preschool students.

“The upside for the 78 students, the preschoolers, is just tremendous,” Kirk said.

The lease that the administration signed with the Blackburn Drive building owner, Mick Lafata, includes utilities, custodial work and plowing. The lease spans three years, with an option for the city to rent the building for a fourth and fifth year, too.

This year’s rent, Kirk said, was drawn from the $250,000 cost budgeted for paying the utilities at the Fuller school building, which is now set to be closed.

“The funding source for the lease is the remainder of the savings from the Fuller utilities, so it wasn’t an increase to the budget,” Kirk said.

Lafata — who lost a large sum of money when the now-defunct Gloucester Community Arts Charter School, funded through the state Department of Education, failed to cover the school’s remaining rent — expressed his joy Friday in having a new tenant.

“I’m really hoping that this is a new beginning,” said Lafata.

He said he plans to replace the charter school’s sign with one that says “Gloucester Public Schools: Administration and Preschool.”

With the preschoolers, administration, and school bus department situated, the School Committee has now begun a search for a space that can temporarily house students during the rebuilding of West Parish Elementary School.

A formal request for sealed proposals stipulates a leasable property suitable for a handicap accessible school and school facilities department.

The formal request suggests a three-year lease with an option to continue that lease for a year, if the city so chooses.

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

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