By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — The city’s public schools and Salem State University are considering relocating the Horace Mann Laboratory School to a different building on the university’s campus.
SSU’s Harrington Building, which currently houses the college’s nursing program, is being eyed as a possible new home for the 325-student elementary school. The city plans to hire a consultant this fall to study and determine if the move would be feasible.
Relocation is something both the city and SSU are open to, but the logistics — where SSU’s nursing program would go, if the building would be adequate for Horace Mann and other details — are yet to be determined, Mayor Kim Driscoll said yesterday.
“We’re excited about it. This could be really positive,” Driscoll said. “... This is not something that’s going to happen immediately, but something that’s worth exploring.”
It’s an idea that has been years in coming. Horace Mann, a kindergarten through fifth-grade school, operates in a 93-year-old building that does not have some of the modern amenities, such as a gymnasium, that other Salem schools have.
Horace Mann students are bused off-site for gym classes, including to the Harrington Building.
SSU’s Harrington Building was previously a school, the St. Chretienne Academy, from 1918 to 1971. It has both a cafeteria and gym.
The relocation would give Horace Mann more space and move it away from a busy area of Route 1A prone to traffic congestion, Driscoll said.
The Horace Mann building at 33 Loring Ave. was built in 1920. It’s the only city elementary school that hasn’t been upgraded or renovated in recent decades, Driscoll said.
“It’s just not up to par with what we would look at as a modern school,” Driscoll said.
Horace Mann is a laboratory school, as SSU’s student teachers get experience in the elementary school’s classrooms and the university’s education department works closely with the school. The university pays for half of the principal’s salary.
This relationship and education model — with multi-age classrooms and small “learning groups” — would be maintained if Horace Mann were to relocate, Driscoll said.
“(Horace Mann) has always been on Salem State’s campus, so there’s a desire to continue that nexus,” she said.
Schools Superintendent Stephen Russell and SSU President Patricia Maguire Meservey are both in favor of exploring the possibility of relocating Horace Mann to the Harrington Building on SSU’s South Campus.
Driscoll said the idea grew out of regular meetings she has with Meservey. The issue was discussed publicly at Monday’s School Committee meeting.
The city plans to go out to bid next month to hire a consultant to study the relocation. It’s possible the study would be finished by the end of the school year, Driscoll said.
If it’s determined to be feasible, how soon the move could happen would depend on a number of factors, Driscoll said, including how soon SSU’s nursing program could move out of the Harrington Building and how long it would take to renovate the space to meet Horace Mann’s needs.
“The (Loring Avenue) facility is one that we know is probably not the best long-term way to house an elementary school on Salem State’s campus,” Driscoll said. “This (feasibility study) seemed like a good place to start.”
“This will take some time to work through,” she said. “Our hope is that (the study) could yield a good plan.”
Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.