It’s time to find solution for old school building
May 04, 2017 | 5216 views | 0 0 comments | 386 386 recommendations | email to a friend | print
News that the Gathering Place was pulling out of plans to locate its senior center at the old high school in Wilmington will come as a surprise to many (see story on page ???). The Gathering Place had been considered a potential anchor tenant for the old school, now operating under the Old School Enrichment Center moniker.

Gathering Place director Mary Fredette told the Dover Selectboard they were moving on from considering the OSEC for their Deerfield Valley location. She said the board of directors had told her not to wait for officials in Wilmington to finalize plans to hand over the building to the the nonprofit OSEC committee. Fredette said they have been looking at other locations in the valley, and had identified as many as four options in Dover and Wilmington.

We first reported the interest of Senior Solutions in the old school building more than two years ago. In that time not much has happened, in terms of the future of the former high school property. It must have been frustrating for the Senior Solutions people, having identified a need and a facility, and not being able to follow through with their plans to offer their services to those who need them.

That move must also be a tough pill to swallow for school board members and town officials who have been working hard to find solutions for the old high school building. With Senior Solutions pulling the plug, that makes at least three potential tenants in the building to either pull out or express reservations about the viability of the redevelopment project and its timeline.

Losing potential tenants by attrition isn’t the long-term solution for the old school that anyone is hoping for.

What is also notable about the Senior Solutions move is that they say any potential facility needs approximately 3,000 square feet and an elevator, if that space is more than one level. That’s a good-sized space to fill up, one that will limit options for the valley, and one the old high school readily offers. There are few other buildings in the valley that will meet those requirements. But it would appear the Senior Solutions folks couldn’t wait any longer. There are people with needs here in the valley and a facility is necessary to service those needs.

On May 23 voters in Wilmington and Whitingham will vote on the Act 46 consolidation plan. It will take the current contract agreement for the Twin Valley schools and formalize Twin Valley into one district that will encompass the two towns. Voters need to know what will happen with the old high school building. Basically, voters need to know that the new district will not retain ownership.

According to the Twin Valley plan, all property owned by the two current school districts will become property of the new Twin Valley district on July 1, 2018. That gives Wilmington a little more than a year to dispose of the building, or take ownership from the new district. The concern here would be that waiting another year would mean the loss of more potential tenants.

Voters in Halifax, Stamford, and Readsboro will also vote on their side of the Act 46 plan. Even if those three towns approve the plan, if Whitingham or Wilmington voters decide not to, it’s back to the drawing board for all the towns in the Windham Southwest Supervisory Union.

Disposing of the old school building in Wilmington, while not spelled out in the Twin Valley articles of agreement, has to be part of the equation. Voters in the new district should know before the vote what the fate of the building will be.

We know there has been lot of honest effort to resolve the situation with the old high school building. But that effort has to come to fruition someday, and time is running short.

We hope the Wilmington school and select boards can present a viable plan with the Old School Enrichment Center committee for the transfer of the facility soon. That really needs to come before the Windham Southwest Act 46 vote. In light of this recent news, that plan can’t come soon enough.
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