Group puts money into plan to develop an education center next to Erie museum.
Shortly after legions of Erie-area school students begin returning to classes in late August and early September, George Deutsch will go to work on launching his outreach plans to Erie County school districts.
Deutsch, the Historical Society of Erie County executive director, and Jeff Sherry, the Historical Society’s museum educator, will make their pitch on how a proposed education center can help stimulate and advance educational goals for students, teachers and schools.
“We’ll be seeing what their needs are and what we can develop to help them,” Deutsch said.
Historical Society officials last week announced their $350,000 purchase of property at 338 West Sixth St., which is home to the two-story, 5,200-square-foot Schroeck & Associates law firm, and an 1,100-square-foot carriage house behind the firm at 336 West Sixth St.
Both buildings are adjacent to the Historical Society’s Thomas B. Hagen History Center at 356 W. Sixth St.
The Historical Society plans to break ground in late fall on a project to renovate the law firm — a building know historically as the Wood-Morrison House — and turn it into an education center. The project’s estimated cost is $500,000 to $1 million; funding has already been secured through private donations, Deutsch said.
“When we finish the renovations, we’re going to have a great facility with a modern interior, and with electronics and research capabilities, things we can use to help schools with curriculum development, teacher in-service, continuing education, and also to bring students in as an outside classroom for them,” Deutsch said.
The renovation project could take anywhere from a year to three years to complete, according to Deutsch.
“We’d love to develop the program with schools,” Deutsch said. “We will determine how much they need, what they can use, and what’s the first step. To me, the ultimate goal is to give us the opportunity to advance our educational goals, which is, I think, a major part of why we even exist. We have the archives, we have the museum, but education, to me, is a critical aspect of our mission, and this would give us an opportunity to greatly expand that opportunity.”
Deutsch said he hopes the future education center will be a boon to the Erie School District, and hopes to facilitate talks soon with Erie schools Superintendent Brian Polito.
“We know the Erie School District has been in distress and they’re in a great deal of transition,” Deutsch said. “I’m not sure what their needs are, but we would love to develop the program with them. Now how much they need, what they can use, what’s the first step will be determined.”
So when the new school year begins, Deutsch and Sherry expect to have a steady curriculum of talks with Erie city and county school officials.
“Part of it is finding out what some of their needs are and hopefully adapting what we’re doing in terms of our construction,” Deutsch said. “For instance, if there is an opportunity to have a theater in there for either students or teachers, we would probably put something like that in — a large area with lots of chairs and a screen. But there well may be other items that we’ll simply find out what their needs are and, as we develop our plans, make sure we include.”
Erie Times-News staff writers share personal stories. Ron Leonardi can be reached at 870-1680. Send email to email@example.com.