Jennifer Tapper was on a mission. She drove to the Glover School and arrived just as construction workers were tearing most of it down. She wanted something from the site that would remind her three children of their elementary school days there.
In a matter of minutes, she was cradling three bricks that had once been part of the school.
“This school has been so wonderful to my family, I just wanted to have something as a memory,” she said. “It meant so much to my kids, so it means a lot to me at this point.”
The two buildings on the Maple Street site, built in 1916 and 1948, came down last week as part of a $26 million project that calls for a new K-3 school on the site. The construction of the planned two-story, 79,000-square-foot school will take about 18 months, said Marblehead Superintendent Greg Maass. During that time, kindergarten and Grade 1 students will attend the Eveleth School, and second- and third-graders will be moved to the Village School.
“It’s the right time to build a new school,” said Maass, who noted the numerous problems with the school’s two buildings that housed different grades. The school was not handicapped-accessible, its boiler was almost a century old, and electrical systems were failing.
“It was becoming very difficult to find parts,” Maass said. “We had to go on eBay sometimes and hunt around for them.”
The old school also lacked amenities that other learning institutions take for granted. There was just one bathroom for students in one of the buildings, and children had to walk down to the basement to use it. Also, since there was no cafeteria, students ate in their classrooms. And when first-graders had art or music, they had to go to the other building on campus.
“This was one of the worst buildings in the state,” said Richard Nohelty, chairman of the Glover School Building Committee. He said the new school will have 20 modern classrooms, with five for each grade. The brick, L-shaped building on the 3.8-acre site will include a cafeteria, library, a small gym, and an elevator.
For the last four years, residents have been planning for a new Glover. In 2008, voters approved a proposal to spend $395,000 on a feasibility study that was conducted with the Massachusetts School Building Authority. In 2010, the study recommended building a new school on the site.
Nohelty said the proposal to borrow more than $24 million — which was first turned down by voters in 2010, and later approved in June 2011 — would follow the school district’s master plan for its buildings. The state has said it will reimburse the town $10 million for the project.
“It’s necessary. We’re in a great town and we had lousy facilities,” Nohelty said. “It’s just a better place for kids to experience school.”
By adding a kindergarten on the site, the new school will grow from about 325 to 425 students. After it opens it will allow the town to consider other use for the Eveleth School, which now functions as a kindergarten.
The old school, named after Revolutionary War hero General John Glover, was built on a former Naumkeag Indian encampment, said Marblehead Selectman Harry Christensen. Shortly after it was constructed, locals began calling it “The Farm School” since many of its students came from families that owned vegetable farms in the surrounding area.
Christensen has mixed feelings about the school’s razing.
“Clearly, the best thing to happen is to have it brought down and have a new school there,” he said. “Still, it really makes you teary-eyed to see it come own. It’s been a Marblehead institution.”