Fall River pre-K students will go to the site of the old Montessori school

FALL RIVER — It took a bit of a scramble from the fall river school departmentbut the school board approved the old Montessori school as a temporary space for students in the expanding pre-K program.

Pre-K students in the morning and afternoon sessions will begin their school year on September 6. The former Montessori school, which announced its closure this summer, is located on the property of St. Anthony of the Desert Church at 300 Eastern Ave.

The school board, at a special finance committee meeting on Monday, approved a one-year lease with the church. The building will provide the School Department with five additional classrooms.

“We’ve had a look at this and walked around the building and it will be a suitable place to start our program in September,” said Ken Pacheco, district chief operating officer. “So the property is ready to go…I think it’s going to give us exactly what we want.”

Find a house:Fall River scrambles for pre-K class space after lone bidder drops out

Pacheco told the school committee that the building would be locked during school hours and an outdoor space for student recreation would be secured at the expense of the school department.

Superintendent of Schools Maria Pontes has asked the school board to withdraw an application for a three-year lease with the owners of Commonwealth Landing, who submitted an offer with the last published request for proposals open on August 16.

Looking for a more permanent space

While it was just to be discussed at the special meeting, Pacheco offered a long-term solution of renting prefabricated modules for the pre-K classrooms which would be located in the old Stone School at 1207 Globe St.

“That’s what we’re looking for as a long-term solution to give us 18 classrooms or 15 and open space for things like indoor recreation,” Pacheco said.

If it was a school board-approved plan, Pacheco suggested acting “as soon as possible” to get the RFP process started.

“I think it’s part of a long-term plan, but what I’m looking for is more information for the Committee regarding the plan for pre-K. But at the same time, we have to balance that with the whole school district,” said school committee member Kevin Aguiar.

Back to class:Fall River is starting school soon, but there’s still no room to expand the pre-K curriculum

He said he was looking for a “bold” plan from Superintendent Maria Pontes and her team about adding classroom space.

“I’m only going to vote on something that’s long-term and comprehensive,” Aguiar said.

After returning from the executive session, Aguiar moved a motion to approve up to $150,000 to be used for an emergency lease for the upcoming school year. The school committee approved the proposal unanimously.

Former charter school still a potential purchase

Mayor Paul Coogan, who is chairman of the school board, said the city potentially buying the former Atlantis Charter School building on South Main Street that was offered in a tender for $6.4 million took some people by surprise.

The building is currently owned by Somerset developer Kenneth Mollicone. John Ferreira, owner of a local construction company and member of the Planning Board, made the offer because, according to RFP documents, he has a purchase and sale agreement with Mollicone buy the school if the sale with the city is successful.

“We’ll sit down with the owners and talk to them again. We’ll probably do an assessment and evaluate the whole proposal,” Coogan said.

The $6.4 million does not include Ferreira’s proposal for an additional $2 million in structural upgrades.

Jo C. Goode can be reached at [email protected]. Support local journalism and subscribe to The Herald News today!