Just days before 50 or more kindergartners enter classrooms at the Greenleaf School, Superintendent James F. Scully is working to overcome what he calls misinformation that he promised to close the 133-year-old school in exchange for voter support to replace the Hunking School.
Roughly four classrooms’ worth of kindergartners who live closest to the Greenleaf School will attend the facility, which was built in 1884 and fails to meet Americans with Disabilities Act handicap-accessibility standards.
In August 2013 and again in October of that year, reports submitted by Scully to the state School Building Authority indicated that the Greenleaf would be “eliminated” from the district’s educational plans. The SBA ultimately reimbursed the city more than 67 percent of the cost of building the new Hunking.
But at Thursday’s School Committee meeting, Scully backed away from any talk of closing Greenleaf.
“Some are alleging we said we were closing the Greenleaf School,” Scully said. “My statement was we are going to pull the existing students out and put them into the Hunking. What we said was we were going to use the building in some capacity.”
The Educational Plan and official Schematic Plan submitted to the SBA as part of the city’s application for funding clearly state that the Greenleaf School would not house students once the Hunking School was built. Both documents can be found on the school district’s website.
Excerpts from the Educational Plan, submitted in August 2013, state:
“For operational efficiency and consolidation, this plan proposes to eliminate the Greenleaf School in order to provide a fully code-compliant and accessible facility for all students.”
“The building does not meet the needs of a 21st Century school facility. … The largest obstacle for using this building in the future is the fact that the building is not accessible to people with physical disabilities. … If a child lives right next door to Greenleaf, and happens to have a physical disability, that student must be bused to another building with accessibility.”
The document points out that Greenleaf lacks an elevator, accessible restroom facilities, or a proper library, cafeteria or gym. Its roof has failed and insufficient electrical infrastructure impairs use of technology available at other schools in the district.
The Schematic Plan, dated October 23, 2013, is even more direct in spelling out the plans for the Greenleaf. On a page titled Preferred Option Advantages, among items in the list is that it “removes the inefficient Greenleaf School from service.”
Scully insisted the classroom space in the Greenleaf School is needed to house all the district’s students. Nearly all schools are at capacity, except for some available seats at Bradford Elementary and Silver Hill School.
Because of the lack of handicap-accessibility at Greenleaf, if any kindergartners with physical disabilities should be registered late, they would have to attend Bradford Elementary.
Scully said the conditions at Greenleaf are safe for students. Two areas of mold, each roughly 3 by 18 inches, have been removed, flaking paint has been fixed and asbestos-containing tiles have been removed.
The plan is to use only first-floor classrooms, except for an upstairs room that has been renovated for use as a library.
After vigorous cleaning and removal of standing water in the basement, the old school is looking pretty good, Scully said.
“The difference is day and night.”