House rich, cash poor could be the motto of the Fall River School Department. It seems that the school department never has enough money to meet expenses. However the one thing the school department has too much of is schools!
This fall three new 'super-sized' schools will open up and replace ten older and smaller school buildings. Meanwhile there are already several unused or underutilized school buildings throughout the city.
It makes sense to evaluate the current use of all school buildings to ensure that we are using them in the most effective and efficient way possible. It makes sense to look at our current needs and our needs for the foreseeable future. However once we've done that it makes sense to sell the surplus school buildings because we can use the revenue and because we will no longer be responsible for maintaining a building that we have little need for.
Many of Fall River's school buildings are deeply rooted in the neighborhoods they served. It is therefor important to control who these buildings are sold to and how they are developed. Also I think it's important that revenue from school building sales be used for our schools. I personally favor the idea that such revenue would be earmarked in a school maintenance fund. I also favor the idea that property taxes generated from a former school building would be earmarked for educational use. This was something that Eric Poulin suggested in his run for mayor and I rather like the idea of these buildings serving education in perpetuity.
Maybe once the new Kuss Middle School opens we could house all of School Administration at the current Kuss site, instead of having housed in 3 different locations. Perhaps the Fowler School, nestled in its little neighborhood could be sold to be developed as condominiums or luxury apartments. The Highland School with is close proximity to Truesdale Clinic would seem an ideal location for medical offices. Perhaps the Stone School could be the new home for the Niagra-Maplewood Senior Center if the future of its current location is still uncertain. Maybe the historic NB Borden School, which once boasted Lizzie Borden as a pupil, would be an ideal location for the Children's Museum of Greater Fall River. After all, the building offers a reasonable amount of space, has parking, is near downtown and borders the Arts Overlay District. And it's already city owned.
There are so many things that we can do with those buildings, as long as we use common sense and make sure their future use fits into the fabric of our city. But we should do something with them so that they continue to have life and continue to benefit of this city.