Drastic changes have taken place over the last week at the McKinley School, with the largest piece of news being that the new school likely will not be located on the existing Yeamans Street site.
Superintendent Paul Dakin said it is more than likely that the new McKinley School will be built on a new site, probably on Harry Della Russo Stadium just a stone’s throw from the current school.
“The possibility of staying on the current site is shrinking because the state indicated that it will be a 690-seat school and it’s just is not feasible at the existing site unless we take about 10 properties in the area,” he said. “That is still a possibility, but a slim possibility especially where there is more open space around…It looks like it will be somewhere else, but that somewhere else is undetermined now. Hill Park and Harry Della Russo Stadium are certainly the most viable options.”
A number of people have resisted the taking of Hill Park and the Stadium – as it is the only park situated in the center of the City and, more importantly, it is named for a World War II veteran and the late Mayor William Reinstein.
The Hill Family and State Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein have both previously logged in against moving the school to that site.
Dakin said – once the state indicated that the school should hold 690 students – he knew that moving the school site was inevitable.
“We need about three acres to build a school like that, and McKinley now has one acre,” he said. “It would have been tough to pull off a 500-seat school on the site, but 690 seats is likely not going to happen unless we take significant private property around the school.”
Dakin said his preliminary idea would be to take the stadium site first and relocate a brand new stadium elsewhere, keeping the takings at Hill Park to a minimum.
As part of federal park rules, any land taken from a park has to be replaced at another location within the city limits.
“The stadium needs major renovations and it is in very bad shape,” he said. “Instead of renovating it, the smarter thing to do – people are saying – is to replace the stadium elsewhere and it will be brand new.”
Dakin said if the new building is moved to a different site, he indicated the schools would keep the old McKinley and not demolish it.
“We thought that if the school does move to another location, then we shouldn’t tear down the old building,” he said. “That way all of the investment we put into it recently won’t be for not. It will become a municipal building and will be in our archive. There are plenty of school functions that need space now, and the old McKinley could accommodate some of those.”
•In the wake of the news concerning the likely move of the McKinley, a vote was taken last week by the McKinley teachers concerning whether or not to move at the end of the school year – as had been the plan.
The vote ended up being in favor of staying at the school.
Due to air quality concerns last fall, the school underwent extensive air transfer equipment work and a plan was made to move the school and students to the Beachmont School next year.
That plan has now been scrapped.
“If the project starts on the existing site at the end of next year, they will stay until then, but if it starts somewhere else, then they’ll stay in the building for another three years,” Dakin said.
•Assistant Principal Ed Moccia has been chosen by the district as the new principal of McKinley and will start his work on July 1st when current principal Liz Anton officially retires.
•Finally, the state recently opened up the Extended Learning Time (ELT) grant after being frozen for several years, and McKinley teachers voted last week to go forward with pursuing ELT grant money for their school.
“We’ve already started a very competitive process to try and land one of those grants for the McKinley,” said Dakin.
The ELT grant is already in place at the Whelan School and the Garfield Middle School. So far, it has been heralded by educators at those schools and received with mixed results by parents.