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City considers moving school to STCC Technology Park

Date: 5/18/2010

May 19, 2010.

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- The recommendation made by the School Department's Building and Maintenance Subcommittee at its meeting on May 24 may be one of the initial steps to relocate the Springfield Renaissance School to a new home at the Springfield Technical Community College Technology Park.

Unlike the move of the School Department offices to the former Federal Building on Main Street, the city's Chief Administrative and Finance Officer, Lee Erdmann, told Reminder Publications the relocation of the school could involve a search through a Request for Proposals (RFP), if the School Committee wishes it.

"They [The School Department] are the policy makers," Erdmann said. "They're the ones to decide to put out an RFP."

The goal is to find a new home for the school for the start of the school year in 2011, he said.

The potential lease deal with the Technology Park was part of the discussion concerning the School Department budget during the budget hearing conducted on May 8. City Councilor Timothy Rooke was among the councilors with additional questions about the proposed arrangement with the Technology Park to rent 70,000 square feet of space at a cost of $1 million a year.

Rooke, who has been critical of the Federal Building deal that has obligated the city to a 20 year lease at a cost of more than $500,000 as well as the cost of renovations, said he was alarmed when he heard the city had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Technology Park before a RFP for a new location was issued.

Rooke added under state law the School Department must pay for the rental of space for the first three years of a lease and then the money must come from the city side of the budget.

Erdmann said there was a misunderstanding about the MOU. First, he noted, the MOU has not been signed. According to a timeline for the relocation of the school, the MOU was supposed to have been drafted and signed some time this month. It has not happened, he said.

The second point about the MOU is it does not obligate the city to ultimately pick the Technology Park as the final site for the school, he said. The document is a step needed by the Technology Park in order so it can prepare detailed plans on the cost of the renovations.

Erdmann also said the City Council will have approval rights over any lease the School Department. He confirmed the cost of the lease for the school is between $1 million and $1.4 million.

Erdmann added he believes there would be some "very positive synergies" between the college and the high school.

In a statement prepared for this newspaper, Mayor Domenic Sarno wrote, "[President] Ira Rubenzahl from Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) had reached out to me early in my administration about the prospects of Renaissance School leasing space from the College. Renaissance is a very popular school with a unique educational style that would make STCC a perfect location to house the school.

"The Renaissance School is pleased about the possibility of having its school located on the STCC campus. Ira Rubenzahl had indicated to me that the state and STCC would handle the renovation expenses, which would make this a great deal for the city.

"I am awaiting the receipt of documented details to review to determine the feasibility of the city moving forward with this endeavor."

School Committee member Antonette Pepe said she and other members of the committee had not been told of the proposed move to the Technology Park until last week.