Ackerson building & Alumni Field to close; Community Resource Center and Co-op Preschool to relocate
As part of the building configuration decision on which the school board voted last Tuesday, the school board decided to close the Nellie Ackerson building located at 410 City Road and discontinue the district’s use of Alumni field, located adjacent to the Ackerson building. Although no vote was taken beyond closing Ackerson and Alumni Field, selling them seems to be the end goal.
With the relocation of the Manchester Early Childhood Center and the Central Administrative offices to Klager and the Middle School, only two outside organizations, the Community Resource Center and the Manchester Co-op Preschool who rent space in Ackerson from the school district are in need of new locations to move into by the end of the school year. While Alumni Field hosts the Manchester Community Fair, the Chicken Broil and Manchester Soccer Association games every year, the only school district activity it hosted was high school soccer games. To be able to accommodate soccer games on the football field, the district will be converting the grass on the football field to artificial-turf. A third outside organization located within a school building is the Manchester Wellness Center located in the small building behind the Middle School. The new building configuration will not affect the Wellness Center, although the Wellness Center building will receive some energy efficiency upgrades also voted on at the Tuesday meeting.
Both Manchester Co-op Preschool and the Community Resource Center had only been given 1-year leases last spring, so were aware that they might be required to find a new location this year.
The Co-op Preschool offers a pre-school for 3 and 4-year olds as well as a young-fives program and currently rents two adjoining classrooms and has storage space in the basement of Ackerson. Sarah Andrews of the Co-op Preschool board stated, “We will be looking for a new location, and continuing to operate next year!!”
The Community Resource Center operates Manchester’s only food pantry. Both the food pantry and the office are open weekdays year-round. The Community Resource Center assists residents in need with other resources such as emergency financial assistance for utilities and rent, online application help for public assistance and direct referrals to other agencies for specific needs related to senior issues, job searching and medical coverage. It offers public access to computers, faxing, and other technology, and hosts county-wide services such as WIC nutrition program, free individual financial coaching, tax preparation, and for the last year and a half has hosted a behavioral health navigator from St. Joesph Chelsea once a week for free mental health consultations and referrals. The Community Resource Center serves on average 50 families a month in the Manchester School District, distributing a total of $20,000 worth of food, cleaning supplies and necessities a year.
The Community Resource Center currently rents two classrooms in Ackerson and uses a locker room for storage. It has additional requirements for a location including needing to be handicap accessible with close parking. Whatever happens, the Community Resource Center will work hard to maintain continuity of its services. Seyfried stated, “There may be some short-term adjustments during the actual transition time, but helping residents access food, emergency assistance, and referrals will be maintained by the staff and volunteers.”
Coincidentally, Tuesday evening while the School Board was holding its special meeting, the Community Resource Center was hosting a roundtable for area non-profit groups on the topic of a potential community center. The community center envisioned would be centered around community services like a senior center, public transportation/ride share hub, pay-as-you-can cafe, a charity resale store and of course, house the Community Resource Center and its food pantry. Much of the conversation was focused on finding an existing space large enough to house a Community Center, but without much luck. With their impending eviction, focus will be on finding a new location for the CRC, but Seyfried has not given up the long-term goal of a community center. She stated, “We will start looking for a place to be by the end of the summer break, and also work on a long-term plan at the same time. Maybe they could be the same place.”