Athol seeks new uses for former schools

  • Riverbend School. Recorder STAFF/Domenic Poli

  • Ellen Bigelow School. Recorder STAFF/Domenic Poli

  • The sign reads “Farewell Pleasant St. Hello ACES!” The Pleasant Street, Sanders Street, Riverbend and Ellen Bigelow schools have closed and all will be consolidated into the Athol Community Elementary School. Recorder STAFF/Domenic Poli

  • Sanders Street School in Athol RECORDER STAFF/DOMINIC POLI

Recorder Staff
Published: 7/22/2016 10:41:10 PM

ATHOL — The Athol-Royalston Regional School Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to turn over four local schools back to Athol ahead of September’s slated opening of a consolidated school.

The town loaned the Pleasant Street, Sanders Street, Riverbend and Ellen Bigelow school buildings to the school district for educational purposes, but the district is no longer in need of them with Athol Community Elementary School, on 1064 Pleasant St., opening.

Pleasant Street School will change hands on Sept. 1 (some materials are being stored there), while the town will have ownership of the others on Aug. 1.

Athol Town Manager Shaun Suhoski said a long-term goal when he was hired was to get the Sanders Street, Riverbend and Ellen Bigelow schools into the private sector. He said he met three or four months ago with the Economic Development and Industrial Corporation and its members agreed to help recruit renters and users for the buildings. He explained the former middle and high school is now an apartment complex and it serves as a great model for transitions into the private sector.

Suhoski said EDIC Chairman Jim Meehan contacted nonprofit organizations HAPHousing and NewVue Communities and learned the idea was feasible. He explained he reached out to Volunteers of America, a nonprofit he worked with to transform an abandoned Ayer hospital into the Nashoba Valley Medical Center when he served as Ayer’s economic development director.

“The end result speaks for itself,” Suhoski said.

He said he hopes in early August to send out requests for proposals for the Sanders Street, Riverbend and Ellen Bigelow schools. The town, he said, will take more time to devise a long-term plan for the Pleasant Street School.

You can reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 258.
On Twitter: @DomenicPoli


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