What’s Next for Pope John?
There is a lot of talk about what the future should hold for the Pope John site. Although I no longer serve on the City Council, I am still a resident that cares deeply about the City of Everett. The City purchased the building with the intent of converting it into affordable housing units for seniors and veterans. With well over 600 applicants for the 77 units at St. Therese, the need for more units that our seniors and veterans can afford is clear. Costs continue to rise and the struggle to afford a place to call home continues to grow.
At the same time, our schools are overcrowded and our students need space. Ideally, building a new high school and converting the existing one into a junior high school would alleviate the overcrowding in our schools. However, that plan would take time and not help in the interim.
Many have called on the City to renovate Pope John and keep it a school. At the same time, funds are being sought to place modular classrooms at the Keverian School and other work is being done in the district to repurpose areas into classrooms. The need for space is real. The City and School Department need to work together and establish a long term plan as they continue to play catch-up and place expensive band-aids on the issue of overcrowding.
The Mayor has stated that there are other alternative locations that could be used and renovated, such as the old high school or other city buildings, while the plan for a new high school works its way through the process. I would like to see the City commit to this and identify the space to be used.
The discourse has turned into a question of what is more important to City Hall – students or senior citizens? It doesn’t have to be that way. The City can help both groups by repurposing another location to provide relief to our students while allowing Pope John to be utilized for senior and veteran housing.
I would not have voted to purchase Pope John if the intent was to keep it a school while the City has other, underutilized locations.
Only time will tell what the outcome will be.