Desk giveaway at Vining and old Ditson schools ‘huge success,’ says town manager

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BILLERICA — Less than a week after Town Manager John Curran said that he expects both the Vining and old Ditson elementary schools to finally be demolished this spring, he informed the members of the Board of Selectmen recently that their effort to give away old desks from the schools was a “huge success.”

“It was a great success and it was a good way to use those desks,” Curran said. “With the climate we’re in, desks are a pretty good thing for remote learning, so people will use them for that purpose.”

Curran’s remarks came during the board’s virtual meeting, where he provided an update on the Sept. 12 event.

According to Curran, the town had 100 families pre-register for the event, though only half showed up.

Still, Curran was confident that the demand for desks remains high, highlighting how the town posted about the event on social media and within minutes a flood of families began to register.

“Some people did not show up and we do have about 50 left over, so we’ll do the program again,” Curran said. “I think we’ll be able to get rid of them.”

The old Ditson Elementary School has been empty for four years, after the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office, which occupied the space for 14 years, was forced to move due to its untenable condition. Billerica Public Schools vacated the building in the early 2000s when a new Ditson School was built on Cook Street.

The Vining School, on the other hand, was only officially closed for all activities back in early October, after a report by project management company Leftfield indicated that the building was in disrepair. Curran informed the Board of Selectmen that the cost of repairing it would be too high. The School Department had vacated the building five months earlier.

On Saturday, in addition to desks, families received chairs, paper and some pencil sharpeners from the soon-to-be-demolished schools.

In other business, the board:

  • Discussed vacancies on other boards and committees;
  • Held public hearings in regards to multiple National Grid petitions, Top Auto and the Country Club of Billerica;
  • Reviewed warrant articles for Fall Town Meeting;
  • Discussed proposed amendments to the Board of Selectmen’s procedures;
  • Listened to Veterans Agent Joe Ruggiero provide an update on Veterans services;
  • Set up a work session for their goals and objectives;
  • Listened to an update from Bob Buckley on the Middlesex 3 Coalition and what their focus has been during the pandemic.

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