Budget group wants action on Park Street School
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | January 21,2014
PHOTO BY LEN EMERY
The Springfield town budget committee recently discussed ideas for uses of the old Park Street School.
SPRINGFIELD — Selectman David Yesman in the past offered to buy the old Park Street School for $1.
Yesman, a local real estate agent, was only half kidding.
But Yesman would like to see some action on what he views as a directive from Springfield voters in 2010 to either sell the former elementary school, or give it away.
The Springfield town budget committee recently weighed in on the fate of the 1895 school and said last week the town ought to study moving the town offices and the parks and recreation department into the school, which at one point was the town’s high school.
The building has a gymnasium and auditorium, and is the current home to the Springfield School District’s administrative offices. The school, with its ornate marble halls, is a throwback to more prosperous times in Springfield.
Town Manager Robert Forguites said Monday the school would be too big for the town office and the parks and recreation department. Plus, he said, the school would have to be renovated to accommodate the two town departments.
Forguites said the suggestion of moving parks and recreation into the building, including the Springfield Senior Center, has been discussed before and faces strong opposition from the Springfield seniors. They like their current home in the Springfield Community Center, Forguites said.
The Community Center, which is located at the foot of Main Street, is within walking distance of the Whitcomb Building, one of the large senior housing apartment buildings in town. The other one, the Huber Building, is a longer walk up Main Street.
While the parking at the Community Center is limited, Forguites said, the seniors and others have an agreement with the Calvary Baptist Church to use their parking lot and cross the street, he said.
Getting to Park Street School from Main Street is an uphill walk, he added.
Yesman has had other real estate dealings with the Springfield School District in the past. Last year, he was the exclusive agent to sell the former East School, a large brick structure on Summer Street. The sale to the Springfield Medical Care Systems fell through.
Yesman said Monday he had been contacted by someone — he wouldn’t say who — who was interested in renting part of the Park Street School. He said the proposal would have to go before the Park Street School Committee, as well as the town and the School Board.
Yesman serves on the committee, along with Springfield Select Board Chairman Kristi Morris, and Springfield School Board members Steve Karaffa and Kenneth Vandenburgh. Those committee members in turn appointed local Springfield businessman Stephen Greene.
Yesman said the group hadn’t had a meeting since December, and the members were trying to schedule a meeting by the end of the week.
Yesman said the parks and recreation department already used the gymnasium at Park Street School. But he said if the town vacated both the Community Center and the Town Hall, the question would be what to do with those buildings.
“You might be swapping a $5 cat for a $5 dog,” he said.
But he said having 20 school administration employees in a 90,000-square-foot building wasn’t economical for the town. He said Superintendent Zach McLaughlin had told the group he would do whatever the group wanted, but that office space would have to be rented if the school was sold.