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What should we do with Maury School?
What should we do with Maury School?

Date published: 11/25/2005

Maury, again

Finding a use for the old school

SOMETIMES the headlines seem relentlessly optimistic, to wit, "New hope for old Maury School" [Nov. 20]. News stories reporting on plans to make use of the abandoned building recur like the plot of "Groundhog Day," rivaling only the Civil War for perseverance in local headlines. Now, the Fredericksburg City Council has opened the door again, inviting developers to submit ideas to refit the memory-laden facility. To which all civic-minded Fredericksburgers must say, "Yes! Let's do it this time!"

The building, located on George Street, was built in phases, the first beginning in 1919. From then until 1952, Maury housed both elementary and high-school students. After James Monroe High School opened, Maury served elementary- and middle-school children until it closed in 1980.

Since then, the building has lost its way. That's a particular irony since it takes its name from Matthew Fontaine Maury, an oceanographer called the "Pathfinder of the Seas." His work on currents produced the first true charts of the ocean. The currents of time are now sweeping past his brick namesake; neglected for too long, the facility could crumble like a sand castle.

Mayor Tom Tomzak, City Manager Philip Rodenberg, and City Council seem serious about not allowing that to happen. With the understanding that the stadium and the adjoining park remain untouched and that part of the building be retained for public use, they are seeking a public-private partnership that would resurrect the school. In the past, developers and community leaders have proposed using Maury as a Munchkin-scale civic center, a James Monroe presidential library, housing for the elderly, an auditorium, an arts center, a school, and even luxury loft apartments.

It doesn't take skill as a navigator to realize that an 86-year-old building that's been abandoned for a quarter-century needs to be put to good use, or it will eventually have to be torn down.

Here's a vote for the former, and kudos to the city for taking the next step toward that end--again. Like the old sea dog himself, it's now time to persist, get the job done, and create a path into the future for a Fredericksburg icon, Maury School.