Fall River needs more classrooms to expand pre-K school curriculum

FALL RIVER — The school department is still struggling with trying to find space for her expansion of the pre-K programalthough there seem to be a few more options as the start of school for young students begins after Labor Day.

Ken Pacheco, the district’s chief operating officer, said a second round of tenders for the school department opened Aug. 16.

Pacheco had to throw the only bid for a former daycare center at 951 Slade St. last month because owner Alvaro Amaral failed to file the necessary paperwork for the lease for more than $380,000 a year.

Amaral made another offer in the second round. According to Pacheco, “this time it was slightly higher” for the proposal, which would give the school department five additional classrooms.

Real estate component:Mollicone sold this building for $1.7 million. A week later, it is for sale to the city for $6.4 million.

Commonwealth Landing is an option

Owners of Commonwealth Landing, including developer Tony Cordeiro, have bid to provide 9,000 square feet on the first floor of the mixed-use building.

With a starting rental price of the first of a three-year lease at $275,000, Pacheco said Commonwealth Landing’s offer includes the construction price to provide six pre-K classrooms.

Commonwealth Landing housed the Bristol Community College courses in the past; Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School currently runs its nursing program there.

The owners of Commonwealth Landing have submitted an offer to lease space from the city for the school department's expanding pre-K program.

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Declining to publicly identify another possible lease opportunity from a recently closed private school, Pacheco said he was awaiting guidance from the state’s Capital Asset Management and Maintenance Division on whether the new facility could be considered after the issuance of the RFP.

“It would give us five classrooms and that was the bare minimum, but it would be turnkey and I could put the kids there on the first day of school.” said Pacheco.

Pacheco said he hopes to meet with school officials and the school committee this week to decide on their options for classroom space.

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Brian Niro leads a class at Tansey Elementary School in Fall River.

Added 127 more students to pre-K

Last year, the school district welcomed 257 pre-kindergarten students, and the goal for this school year is to add 127 additional 3- to 4-year-olds.

As a last resort, if space rental is delayed, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has authorized the school department to stagger start times for pre-K students as long as they make up time for class at the end of the year.

Pacheco said the option to lease classroom pods is still on the table and he has already spoken with the company that leases the structures at Tansey Primary School.

The old Atlantis Charter School building is at 2501 S. Main St., Fall River.

Buy a building for kindergarten

Additionally, the school department and the city have had serious discussions about purchasing a permanent building to house the expanding pre-K program in the future.

Earlier this month, only one bidder responded to the acquisition tender, the former Atlantis Charter School at 2501 S. Main St. owned by Somerset developer Kenneth Mollicone.

The company, Contractors Landing, owned by Mollicone and Planning Board member John Ferreira, bid on the tender for the school and a lot behind it, for $6.4 million.

This price does not include the construction options that Ferreira included in the tender totaling more than $2.7 million, at the discretion of the city whether it accepts additional construction or upgrades with Contractors Landing.

Included in the bid package is a buy-and-sell agreement between Mollicone and Ferreria for the latter to purchase the former charter school for $3.1 million.

However, according to the purchase and sale document, this sale between the two men is contingent on the city agreeing to purchase the school’s bid package for the requested $6.4 million.

The school has approved the request for acquisition proposals, Pacheco said.

“Our camp is over,” Pacheco said. “The school committee examined it. There was nothing in the RFP that shouldn’t have been there and everything that was supposed to be there. So the offer was a legal offer, no problem.

So now, Pacheco said, he will work with Mayor Paul Coogan’s administration “to see what our options are.”

The School Department and School Board, while they may lease space, do not have the ability to purchase property under the law.

Pacheco said the city could use emergency relief funds for elementary and secondary schools, federal COVID-related funding to schools.

But Pacheco added that it’s a very, long and arduous process to get approvals to use federal dollars to buy property.

If the city decides to purchase the former charter school, funding will still need to be determined.

Jo C. Goode can be reached at jgoode@heraldnews.com. Support local journalism and subscribe to The Herald News today!