Fate of Coffin School discussed

Coffin Elementary School closed in October 2021 when the Lucretia and Joseph Brown Elementary School opened. Photo by Spenser Hasak

Potential plans for the Coffin School were discussed between Superintendent John Buckey and the Housing Production Plan (HPP) Implementation Committee Tuesday afternoon.

Coffin Elementary School closed in October 2021 when Lucretia and Joseph Brown Elementary School opened, and the space is currently sitting unused.

The coffin, as it is referred to by officials, is currently the property of Marblehead Public Schools, and it is up to the School Committee what the next steps for it are.

“Maintaining that building isn’t getting cheaper and young people have discovered that it’s a vacant building in town, and so [are] exploring,” Buckey said. “The land is of tremendous value but the building itself isn’t, but there haven’t been any formal conversations about what is the next step for the coffin.”

HPP Implementation Committee Chair Erin Noonan said the School Committee would have to vote on whether it serves a future educational use.

“If you’re not going to use it for school purposes, you would declare it surplus and no longer needed for school purposes, and vote to transfer it to the [Select Board], and then it would have to go to Town Meeting,” HPP Implementation Committee member Becky Cutting said.

Since the warrant for this year’s Town Meeting has already been set, the issue would have to wait until next year.

“I don’t think there’s a path forward for the coffin,” Buckey said. “I would say there is not agreement on our board that it is not eligible for school use. That current building, no, but the land could be if another neighborhood school was needed.”

Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer, who is also a member of the HPP Implementation Committee, said the process needs to get started. The property could go toward new growth revenue for the town.

“The way you grow that is you reuse property in a smart way, in a way that you want for the community,” Kezer said. “The benefits of the schools and the town is if you’re creating new growth revenue, that’s more revenue to be shared between schools and town to meet the service needs.”