GREENFIELD — An alternative school for Greenfield-Central Community Schools is in the works after the school board approved the purchase of a former church fellowship hall during a special meeting Monday morning.
The building, at 526 Wilson St. in Greenfield, is the site of the former Bethel Baptist Church fellowship hall and will be used by more than 960 Greenfield-Central students in fourth to 12th grades with unconventional needs, Superintendent Harold Olin said.
The new building would replace the facility at 1834 Fields Blvd. in Greenfield, which is owned and operated by Hancock Madison Shelby Educational Services, an educational cooperative composed of six area school districts.
For more than a year, the district has been taking steps to sever its ties with the cooperative because the district is large enough now to handle special education programs on its own, Olin said.
“We’ve learned a lot from (the cooperative),” he said, “but we just feel this is something we could do ourselves.”
Opening a Greenfield-Central alternative school would allow the district to have full control of staffing, programs and financing, he said.
Students who will use the alternative school are ones who do not do well in a traditional classroom environment, whether because of a cognitive disability, behavioral or disciplinary issue or other reason, Olin said. These students often require a shortened or altered school day.
When they are removed from the traditional setting, they thrive, Olin said.
“You try everything before you jump to that, but some people just need that different setting,” he said.
The district has been searching since fall for a facility that could serve as the alternative school. Officials recently settled on the former church fellowship hall, which is just south of Greenfield-Central High School. The building is 8,700 square feet and was built in 2001.
School officials put in a preliminary offer of $325,000, which was accepted by the property owners, according to Dan Strahl, attorney for Greenfield-Central schools.
The property will need to be rezoned from a church facility to a school facility, he said. The resolution passed Monday to approve the service is contingent upon that rezoning, although Strahl said he does not foresee any issues.
The building’s size allows the district opportunity for growth, Olin said. Its current layout lends itself well to classroom needs and would offer some area for recreation.
“When you have an alternative education site, you want to be able to provide a similar type of educational experience,” he said. “If you rent a storefront, you don’t have the opportunity for physical activity, (but) this actually has a small area for a gymnasium that could be walled off from the academic area.”
Information regarding the pending purchase will be mailed to those living in the area by Wednesday, officials said.
Board member Dan Leary said it might be in the district’s interest to have a public hearing as well to allow the board and administration to meet people living in the area.
“I think it would be good to let them know we intend to be good neighbors,” Leary said.