WILMINGTON, MA — The Wilmington Council for the Arts, the Stuart Highlanders Pipe Band, and the Merrimack Valley A Cappella Chorus have each called the Wilmington Art Center, located at 219 Middlesex Avenue, home for several decades.
That will soon change, however, as the school district’s Department of Student Support Services will be relocated from the Wildwood Early Childhood Center to the Art Center.
The department’s 14 staff members are currently crammed into two classrooms (750 square feet) at the Wildwood. Their space is described as “simply too small for the demands of the department” — lacking any semblance of confidentiality, while staff is forced to house student records in a pod outside the building.
The department, which oversees approximately $20 million of the school budget, encompasses the following:
- Special Education
- Social & Emotional Learning
- Nursing/Health Services
- School Counseling
- 504 Accommodations
- Harassment/Bullying/Civil Rights/Student Discipline
- Preschool Programs
“I’ve been working with the School Superintendent [on finding a location for Student Support Services]. We’ve looked at all the school buildings and some of the other town buildings,” Public Buildings Superintendent George Hooper recently told the Finance Committee. “It’s unfortunate that we have to vacate one group to make room for another. It is what it is. We just don’t have the luxury of any extra space right now.”
Hooper reported that he met with the Wilmington Art Council on February 12 and noted “they were not happy the decision.”
“It’s going to be a work in progress… There are a lot of items that the Arts Council has accumulated over time that the town will find homes for,” added Town Manager Jeff Hull. “Everything from artwork to a baby grant piano. We’re currently identifying new homes for these things.”
Hull has reached out to the Stuart Highlanders Pipe Band and Merrimack Valley A Cappella Chorus. Both have been given until April 19 to make other arrangements.
“The plan is for custodial crews to go in over April vacation and do some work to get things ready for the transition,” Hull told the Finance Committee.
Hooper noted he plans to have the Art Center ready for Student Support Services no later than the end of summer vacation.
He anticipates the cost of the project to be minimal.
“We’re going to work with the School Department on that, but we’re talking about a very limited amount of money. A fresh coat of paint,” Hooper told the Finance Committee. “There’s a few offices that are being used for storage that will once again be utilized for offices. I’ll be working with the School Department, who I’m sure have some funds for this.”
The Wilmington Art Center was constructed in 1860 and previously served as the Town Hall. The 2,755-sq ft. building includes a basement that is primarily used for storage from the Recreation Department and Town Hall.
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