With the opening of the new Avery Elementary School a little over a year away, the Board of Selectmen created the Avery Re-Use committee to find feasible and creative uses for the current school, a 90-year-old building.
Chairman of the committee Joe Heisler said that sometime soon the Dedham School Committee will vote to declare the building as surplus and hand it over to the town.
Heisler said, "It will be a thorough process," but that the final decision on what to do with the building will be up to the selectmen. He said the committee’s job will be to look at prior studies of the building, get the advice of the community and of various experts.
District Superintendent June Doe said the construction of the new school is on schedule. If all goes well, she said, they will be moving the students out of the old school and into the new next April. If there are any delays, they will finish the school year at the High Street location and the kids will start the new year in the new building.
"Will be moved out of the building by the end of the July at the latest," she said.
Doe said that whatever equipment and furniture they don’t use in the new building will be either sold or reallocated to other schools.
Doe added that an old building like Avery needs asbestos removed whenever there is any type of construction on the building. The new school’s architect Brad Dore of Boston’s Dore and Whittier, conducted a study on the building in 2008 that was used to propel the new school’s approval. The committee voted to invite Dore, town planner Richard McCarthy and other experts to a walk-through of the building in the near future. They also voted to ask Town Administrator William Keegan to determine what kinds of funds were available to perform research on the building.
Committee member Bill Podolski said he believed the best uses for the building would be either a new police station, fire station or senior center. Committee member Jen Barsamian, a neighbor of the school, said she believed they should find out quickly if the property could be zoned for something as obtrusive as a police or fire station in such a residential neighborhood. Selectmen and committee member Paul Reynolds re-iterated the focus on the feasibility of the future project.
Sean Bates, an abutter of the Avery School, said he is worried about his property value.
"I worry about it being a vacant building for too long," Bates said.
Reynolds answered, "We want to move quickly but with the right outcome" and added, "We share the intent to make sure it is feasible and desirable."
Reynolds said he believes the re-use of this building is "critical and strategic to the development of East Dedham."
Reynolds also took note that in the history of Dedham, buildings of significance have disappeared without anyone taking into account the community’s opinions. He added that he will be in touch with members of the Dedham Historical Society find out the historical significance of the building.
The committee members closed the meeting with the intent to hold a public meeting sometime in mid-May at the school in order to gauge community opinion.