Learning hub, senior center among suggested uses for Spurwink School

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Ideas for the future use of the Spurwink School include proposals for a creative learning hub and a senior center.

The 166-year-old building has been serving as the temporary home of the Thomas Memorial Library while the library is being renovated, but will be unoccupied at the beginning of February.

A survey sent out with recent tax bills asked residents what should be done with the building, which is next to the library. There were 807 responses; 52 percent said they want a new public use of the building, 24 percent said it should be rented out to the private sector, and 17 percent said it should be demolished.

The Town Council on Dec. 14 decided to further discuss and review ideas at its Jan. 7 workshop meeting.

On Oct. 22, Town Manager Mike McGovern emailed all municipal departments and the School Department asking if anyone needed space in the building, or if they had suggestions for public use of the space. He also asked the Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society for ideas, and reached out to the public by putting a notice in local newspapers.

Public works, the police and fire departments, the town clerk and tax office and the code enforcement office all said they have no need for the space.

The School Department submitted a proposal for “C.A.P.E. HUB,” which was described as a creative learning center for school and community collaborations. The hub “will support a dynamic and multifaceted set of programming designed to meet the needs of 21st century students, teachers, and members of the larger community,” according to the proposal.

It would have work space for schools to use, a professional development center for teachers from Cape Elizabeth and surrounding towns, a creative literacy summer program and a performance space for open mic nights, readings, films, lectures and music.

Over time, the department said it would like to include an art gallery, a living history museum, a video and audio production studio, a print and image production studio and studio space for a resident artist or writer.

McGovern also received an email from Suzi Piker, who suggested the town should consider using the Spurwink School as a “youth media/storytelling hub.” She said this would be a way to connect students with the community by having young people tell local stories through photos, video and radio. 

Another idea involving education came from Ellen Jordan, executive director of the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation, who said she’d like to use the building, or a portion of it, as office space. 

“Having a building adjacent to Pond Cove (Elementary School) and the middle school would be ideal for us and hopefully something that would be beneficial to the town as well,” Jordan wrote.

There was also an idea submitted by Elizabeth Carroll to use the space as a center for senior citizens.

Noel Harroff, of the School Department’s technology department, said if the historical society wants to move to the Spurwink School, her department would like to use the space in the Police Department now being used by the historical society.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

The Spurwink School (left) is located next to Thomas Memorial Library and has been housing the library for past year while renovations, which will be done in February, have been taking place.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.