Peter Rowe sees it as a way to get rid of some of the outdated and unused stuff "you might otherwise keep in a box in the room." But he admits it's not going to be fun.
Rowe, the deputy administrator for the Brookline Public Schools, is spending his summer helping to move more than 500 students, teachers and administrators from the Runkle School on Fisher Hill to an empty school building a mile across town. Rowe expects it will costs the schools around $125,000 in total, with the money coming out of the school's renovation budget.
It's not the first time Brookline has moved one of schools into the Old Lincoln Building, a surplus facility on Route 9 that was emptied in 1994 when the Lincoln school relocated to new facility on Kennard Road. Baker, Lawrence, the high school and even Town Hall have taken temporary residence in the building during various construction projects.
"We've learned from our experience on this, and we think we understand how to do it," Rowe said. "It's painful for the people who have to go through it. It's just like moving your apartment."
But unlike other moves, this time Old Lincoln is not being transferred from one education or municipal use to another. Before movers started dropping off boxes of teachers' belongings last month, the building had been used for an elaborate multi-floor theatre production coordinated by the American Repertory Theater. Walls had been painted black, hay and dirt filled many rooms, and the entire facility was transformed into a Macbeth-inspired dream world of speakeasies and witch's lairs.
Rowe said the London theater troupe that put the show on did a good job of cleaning up when they left, and that the remaining work is mostly cosmetic – "in the nature of painting and patching and cleanup."
Crews are also busy removing an old wooden playground on the school property that was deemed dangerous, as well as repairing the blacktop around the school, which will be used for recess play along with the Boylston Street Playground on the opposite side of Route 9.
The inside of the Old Lincoln building is also being customized to accommodate the incoming school. The dormant cafeteria has been reactivated and the school's massive auditorium has been partitioned into three parts to accommodate a library, computer room and a "teacher curriculum area" with a coffee machine, lockers and room for meetings. The school will continue to use the library at the Runkle building for small theater and music productions, and auditoriums at other schools for larger productions.
For teachers and administrators used to working in the cramped confines of the Runkle Schools, where teaches frequently held meetings in the hallways for lack of space, the much larger building could easily feel like an upgrade.
Though some teacher belongings were moved over in early June to help teachers clear out their rooms at Runkle, the bulk of the moving will take place in phases over the summer. Library and kitchen equipment were moved over toward the end of June, and the bulk of classroom equipment will be moved from July 5 through the 16. Around July 19, the school's administrative offices will relocate to Old Lincoln.
Thought the building will be closed to the public during the July move, outgoing Principal Joe Connelly said he expects to have the school fully operational and open for visitors, including prospective students and their families, by August. That's when the school will host an open house and Runkle children will have a chance to see the building for the first time.
"It will be business as usual," said Connelly, who plans to step down as interim principal at the end of July to make way for the school's new leader, Vanessa Beauchaine.
Planning the move has not been easy. In addition to coordinating the logistics of moving an entire elementary school from one building to another, town transportation officials have devised a complicated busing and drop-off plan that involves seven designated parking areas from Pill Hill to Cypress Street in Whiskey Point.
The busing plan, which involves dropping students off on a four-lane state highway, has raised the most concerns among parents. Though officials have promised to station a police cruiser at the crosswalk, which is also outfitted with a pedestrian-operated traffic signals, parents met the plan with murmurs of "no" when it was a presented at a meeting in mid June.
Some parents told school officials there were "scared to death" of the idea, and one even suggested building a "sky walk" over Route 9 so children could cross above the traffic. But town officials reminded parents that several schools have used the Old Lincoln facility without incident over the years, and Connelly promised that transportation officials would listen to parent concerns and continue to work on the plan over the next three months.
And while parents and administrators fret about the details of bus coordination and classroom placement, Connelly said the school's roughly 500 students don't seem that concerned. Teachers had posted photos of the two schools side by side in the Runkle lobby before classes ended, and students just seemed excited about the change.
"The kids adjust," Connelly said. "It's the adults – we tend to be worry worts."
When teaches and students move to the Runkle School in September 2012, the renovated building will boast a new multi-purpose room, larger cafeteria and enough classrooms to accommodate three classes per grade level.