Andover officials plan to consider closing the Shawsheen School and building a new, all-town, 150-student prekindergarten building.
North Andover opened a $4 million modular, steel-and-concrete "early childhood center" in 2009 that could serve as one option for Andover's prekindergarten building, according to School Committee member Dennis Forgue. It will be up to a school building committee to look at that and other options, and make a recommendation to the School Committee and voters, he said.
"We are at that stage where they want to look at what to do with the preK population, where it should be housed and all of that," said Paula Colby-Clements, vice-chairwoman of the School Committee. "They are going to look at everything."
Shawsheen School is a prekindergarten to grade two school on Magnolia Avenue that attracts students from all over town. After the new Bancroft Elementary School is built, Shawsheen's K-2 students will return to their neighborhood elementary schools and the system will be redistricted. That is expected to take place as early as the fall of 2014, according to Forgue.
The decision to build a new prekindergarten facility would empty the Shawsheen School, leaving Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski with the task of finding a new use for the building. While the School Committee hopes to look at options for where to put its preK population, Stapczynski said the future use of the building — if it is to be emptied — is his priority.
"The School Committee has to come up with what they want to do," Stapczynski said. "Once that is decided, then I can pick up what I want to do."
What happens to Shawsheen's prekindergarten students remains to be seen. Originally, the new Bancroft School would have been large enough to house the students. When officials decided to reduce to 680 students the size of the new Bancroft School, "that decision left the pre-K population at Shawsheen unaddressed," Forgue said.
The School Committee last week did request the formation of a building committee to look at options for relocating the town's pre-kindergarten student population, which Forgue said currently contains around 130 students.
One option could be to build a new facility, like the one built in North Andover. While modular, it is built of materials that are expected to last 50 years, said Forgue.
Using the existing Shawsheen School would likely cost too much, because of the work that the school would need to be brought up to code, according to Forgue. Plant & Facilities Director Joe Piantedosi did a study that indicated it would cost $7 million to retrofit the building.
"(Shawsheen School has) had a wonderful life, but it has probably lived its life as a school building," Forgue said. "Now that Bancroft is up and moving, it is time to sit down and say, 'How do we move forward?'"
It's the School Committee's intention to look at creating a single pre-kindergarten facility in Andover to support the town's entire preschool population, as well as all faculty and resources that it needs, Forgue said.
"Right now, we have students in Shawsheen, West and Sanborn (elementary schools). We have teachers and specialists all over the place," Forgue said. "It just makes a ton of sense to consolidate all the students and faculty in one site, in one building, to go forward."
The building committee, which Forgue and Stapczynskisaid could be put together this fall, would look at options for the school. The creation and appointment of that committee is now in the hands of Stapczynski, who also wants a committee to study future options for the Shawsheen School building should it be empty (see sidebar).