Palmer residents discuss the fate of the Converse Middle School

Upgrades would cost more than $1 million

PALMER, Mass. (WWLP) – The Town of Palmer hosted an informational meeting Wednesday night to discuss the possibility of closing the Converse Middle School.

Parents and community members came together in the Palmer High School auditorium for a presentation about the possible options for relocating 6th and 7th grade students, should the school be closed.

There are two main reasons why the district wants to close the school: declining enrollment and expensive upgrades.

Converse Middle School has been around for nearly 100 years, and if it stays open, the town would have to pay about $1-million over the next four years to make several improvements, including new floors, classroom doors, a new fire alarm system, and a new security system.

According to a report from the district’s website, the town’s elementary and high school have enough room for the additional students, if Converse Middle School were to close. The district has dealt with declining enrollment in recent years; they have 800 fewer students this year, compared to 2001. The report indicates closing the middle school would allow the district to save money on upgrades, and fill the additional space in their other schools.

While some residents are opposed to sending students to other schools in the district, others are worried about the fate of the building. Town Councilman Matthew Lemieux told 22News, “I know a lot of questions are if they decide to vacate the school, they don’t want to let it just sit idle. You know we definitely want to repurpose the school right away. We don’t want to let it go any further into disrepair than it already is and let it go to the point where we can’t use it.”

Some residents have suggested using the structure for condominiums or commercial space for restaurants or offices.

Under the plan, the middle school would close within the next year. In fall 2017, the 6th grade students would relocate to Old Mill Pond Elementary School, and the 7th grade students would move to Palmer High School.

The school’s staff could also be affected if the school is closed. According to the school district’s Facebook page, certain positions at the school would not be renewed, but only for staff members who are at the end of a contract, want to retire, or voluntarily choose to leave.

The school committee will vote on the future of the Converse Middle School at Thursday night’s meeting.