Elm Street Middle School

Elm Street Middle School, the oldest of Nashua's three middle schools, was the city’s senior high school from 1937 to 1975.

Elm Street Middle School is very old, but it still looks impressive when you take into consideration its handsome architectural expanse and layout. It’s my favorite school building out of them all.

But time marches on, and in the near future, Elm Street Middle School could possibly be “re-purposed.” From what I’ve gathered, city officials could sell it, and then use the money toward building a new middle school elsewhere in south Nashua.

Another possible scenario involves renovating the more than 80-year-old building and keeping it as one of the three middle schools.

That is a tough decision to make for the powers-that-be, and architectural experts are expected to give their final report on the best option this summer.

Is a brick-and-mortar facelift of some $50 million-plus a wise move for the outdated facility?

It needs careful thought with a sensible attitude. Nashua’s Ward 2 Alderman Rick Dowd brought up a good point during a committee meeting held last November on the subject.

“When we look at the cost of renovating Elm Street versus new, we’re not only looking at initial cost, but also 20 years from now. What is the difference in life cycle cost between the two? It makes a huge difference because we anticipate that this school will be around for another 50 years, and the current school is 80 years old. We want a very conservative number, and we want to know what the risk assessment is and have that costed out so we know what the risk is,” Dowd added.

Mr. Dowd is right. We have to look at dollars and cents, and we also have to look ahead. That is what good planning does for any community.

I admit I’m a sentimental fool. It’s hard for me to let go, and that’s a grand beauty of a school. It had a spacious lawn where we used to hang out as students before classes began, and the best room in the building was its cafeteria. It was open and airy with large windows, and the afternoon sun would flood the room as students laughed and ate lunch.

I would prefer the school to undergo a fancy renovation, but let’s get real. The school lacks the room for any athletic fields and barely offers any parking.

Still, the school retains a significant history. Before it was a middle school, it was also a junior high, and prior to that, Elm Street was Nashua Senior High School until 1975. Double sessions were also held there while the new high school (now Nashua South) was being built.

Did you know that the Elm St. school was erected under the New Deal, Public Works Administration (PWA)? It was Federal Works Project #1034 and completed in 1937.

Back in those days, building such a majestic structure was a lot cheaper. A grant in the amount of $270,000 was awarded to the city of Nashua toward construction. Then-Mayor Alvin A. Lucier wrote this in the Town Report:

“...The school was located on city-owned land at a point nearly in the center of population and in the section of the City in which we may fully expect most of the future building will be done as the City grows larger.”

Whether it’s 1937 or 2019, it’s all about moving a city forward.

Ms. Stylianos is a Nashua native. Her column is published weekly. She can be reached at jtania512@gmail.com.