Historic commission wants to preserve two old Medford schools

Medford's historic commission has proposed giving Jackson and Roosevelt elementary schools a local historic designation to help preserve elements of the circa 1911 schools now earmarked for demolition.

The move likely will stall planned May demolition of the oldest portions of the schools scheduled by 120 to 240 days.

The Medford School District plans to construct new buildings to replace the old ones.

"We feel very strongly these schools are very important assets to the historic fabric of Medford," said Cathy de Wolfe, chairwoman of the Medford Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission.

"It would be nice if they could renovate the buildings."

Medford School Board members said they don't know how they'll respond to the proposal but will seek legal advice before deciding.

The school district may refuse the designation in writing and terminate the designation process. However, it would likely still have to wait 120 days before receiving a permit to demolish the buildings under city code.

What that will mean to the cost and timeline to the district's overall construction projects at the schools is unclear, said Medford schools Superintendent Phil Long.

While the commission can delay demolition of the buildings, it cannot stop it, de Wolfe said.

Jackson and Roosevelt were shuttered last June when a district-commissioned engineer concluded the buildings were structurally weak and unsafe to occupy.

The school district had considered keeping both schools closed and dispersing students to other schools. Under pressure from the community board members later voted to tear down dilapidated portions of the schools and replace them with new buildings.

— Paris Achen

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