By: Tammy Daniels On: 02:09AM / Friday February 11, 2011
The city hopes to transform Conte School into a K-7 school and revamp Colgrove Park as a community space.
Architect Margo Jones, right, talks with committee members.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Building Committee is supporting a plan that would save Silvio O. Conte Middle School and construct a new school in the West End.
The proposal was the second of four options provided by Strategic Building Solutions Inc. and Margo Jones Architects Inc., the project manager and the design firm, respectively, to deal with space issues after the closure of Conte in 2009.
The assumption had been that the aging former high school would be abandoned and the focus would be on the elementary schools as they absorbed Grades 6 and 7; the eighth grade was relocated to Drury High School.
"When we walked out of here, Conte didn't play a part," Carl Weber of Strategic Building told the School Building Committee on Thursday night at the school. But the feasibility study done over the past months "made us look at this building and realize it had value, a lot value."
Instead, Conte would be renovated into a kindergarten-through-seventh grade school and a new school serving the same grades would be built behind Greylock Elementary, which would be demolished. This option would put Conte back into service and create a more energy- and cost-efficent school in the West End without having to dislocate pupils during construction. Each school would be renovated or built to serve 310 pupils.
The findings are good news to city and school officials discouraged at the thought of abandoning Conte and leaving another large, empty structure on a vital corner of the downtown. Within the past few years, three churches around the school have been vacated, along with a dentist's office and a funeral home.
"I always worried about what would happen to Conte Middle School if we abandoned this building," said Superintendent of Schools James Montepare. "I like the idea as the mayor does of trying to do something with it."
The committee agreed, voting to present that option as its preferred one to the Massachusetts School Building Authority this March; its second choice was renovating Conte and renovating and putting an addition onto Greylock, which would cost about an extra $1 million to relocate the kids — possibly to Notre Dame School in Adams — during construction.
The least favorite was an oversized school to serve 620 students. The only suitable place to locate a school that size would be at the Greylock site, which committee members and school officials thought would be too large for the neighborhood and too costly to operate. "The busing would kill us," said Montepare. "We'd have to bus everybody."
The renovations will create clusters of grades around a common space with separate areas for special education programs; above are some classroom samples.
A fourth option was to renovate Sullivan School along with Greylock. However, Sullivan's location on the side of a hill would create a school with five levels, some underground, served by two elevators. The complex and problematic configuration and lack of parking lead the committee to dismiss that option.
"I want to see Conte stay," said Mayor Richard Alcombright of presenting the options to the SBA. "If Conte were eliminated, it would have to be Greylock because I don't think Sullivan is an option."
The rough estimate was $18 million to $26 million for each 310-pupil school and $42 million for the 620-pupil school. The SBA would reimburse the city a maximum of 80 percent for eligible expenses (relocation of students, for example, is not reimbursed); the cost to the city was expected to be less than $10 million, including unreimbursed costs. The designers will now begin more detailed cost estimates, including yearly operation, and plans.
Weber said the SBA had funded only one project that covered two schools to his knowledge. It had left the door open by having the city determine the best way to serve 620 students.
"But I think we have to show a compelling need and reason for that and I think we have those compelling arguments," he said. "We think that some of these options are cheaper than a 620 school and the SBA, they look at dollars maybe more than anything else and they're trying to spend taxpayer dollars wisely."
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this seems very strange. according to the will of Nathan Drury, who donated the property to the city, after the premises was not used to 'educate the youth of North Hoosack for a period of one year', the school was supposed to be offered back to the decedants of Mr. Drury. the school closed in June, 2009, so according to the will, it should have been offered back to the heirs in June 2010. (Tammy, don't just take my word on the will, it is available in probabte court in pittsfield, and i believe they have a copy in the safe at the city clerk's office). this issue was brought up in one of the mayoral debates in the last election. so, was it offered back to Mr. Drury's heirs, or is the city ignoring the dictate of the will?
Editor: The district offices are in the building and it is still being used as part of the public school system . That may be splitting hairs but I guess it would take a court to decide that - if a Drury descendant shows up to complain. City officials have been very cognizant that walking away from the building would invoke the will; Mr. Montepare addressed it at the meeting. I Agree (0) - I Disagree (0)
Editor: Brayton would remains unchanged; Sullivan's future was not really addressed. I Agree (0) - I Disagree (0)
Even if a Drury heir showed up with a dozen lawyers, no court in the land would allow such a claim after this much time. It really doesn't matter what the will says, it matters what the law is.
Had the property been put into a trust controlled by the Drurys, then, maybe, a court would look at it rather than laugh at it. However, no such trust exists.
Also, there is absolutely nothing that would prevent the city from taking the property by eminent domain if the property still belonged to the Drurys. And then NA would have to pay the heirs the value that they lost, which is ZERO since the property has not been considered an asset belonging to the heirs for 100+ years.
The will makes a good story, but reality trumps it. Let it go.
At no point has Conte been considered closed for good. In it's present condition the school can't be used by the students but is used for school offices. The process for the feasibility study started a few months after it's closing. A $20 million renovation can't be completed in one year and the courts would understand that.
"This option would put Conte back into service and create a more energy- and cost-efficent school in the West End without having to dislocate pupils during construction."
I guess if you don't count the energy to demolish a building and then build another one right next to the original. Energy accounting is a wonderful thing, it all depends on when you start the record keeping.
It is a sad thing that the building was closed in the first place after so much money was put into it. Its most severe problem was the roof leaking. This was said to be too expensive to fix. Instead Mayor Barrett closed the school, paid to empty the pipes and then let the pipes freeze and break in the gym. The city has let most of the building deteriorate and now it will cost even more to get back in shape. I hope that we have better planners in the future making decisions.
Editor: Not necessarily. It depends on what you mean by "education." Superintendents are required by state law and administration is integral to the education of today's school system. At least that's the argument I would take. I Agree (0) - I Disagree (0)
Just hope they dont mess with the K-7 concept. It is working terrific and Drury has done a fantastic job with the 8th graders going to their school.
Stop it. The City of North Adams doesn't have two nickles to rub together and the taxpayers are going to shell out 10 million dollars on this hair brained scheme? Shut the doors on that money pit and be done with it.
The School Committee voted to close Conte and not Mayor Barrett. You seem to forget the prior administration built two new schools and kept the taxes down. That was planning and not what is now happening with the Alcombright Administration.
To Educator: you forget that Mayor Barrett *was* the School Committee, and no one should delude themselves by thinking the School Committee ever did anything he didn't want them to do. Barrett does deserve credit for building new schools - he never gave up.
This is an article about the school system and the future of how we educate our children. This is not about politics nor should it be. Conte was closed because it was no longer a viable learning environment. A 5 minute walk in the building is all it takes to realize that it has outlived is usefulness in its current condition. If it is deemed that the renovation of Conte and the reconstruction of Greylock are the best options for the future than we need to support our school system as they search for ways to fund this.
To Parent: Your right Barrett never gave up and he pushed hard for a strong educational system and he paid for it without killing the taxpayer. You leave out one important fact however, it was John Hockridge who proposed the idea of closing the Middle School and the committee voted to do so. Check the recoed it is available. Converting Conte into a 600 plus K-7 school would be a terrible mistake and much too expensive. Save our neighborhood schools as the student population continues to dwindle. Mayor Alcombright has no concept of money nor a plan on how the city can come up with 8 million for its share of the cost unless he raises taxes much higher. He still thinks he is at Hoosac where his job was to give away money.
Editor: Conte would not be a 600-student school. It would be a 300-student school to preserve the neighborhood school concept. I Agree (0) - I Disagree (0)
Most N.A. residents now realize what a mistake we made when we decided to replace former Mayor Barrett with Mayor Alcombright.
Mayor Alcombright has made a lot of moves (new teacher, firefighter, police raises, water filtration raises, etc.) which have been very expensive for the future of N.A. while doing nothing to provide immediate relief for taxpayers.The average property tax bill has gone up ten percent since he was elected. And now he's proposing a massive outlay of money which N.A. simply doesn't have and won't have available again in our lifetimes.
This amounts to nothing more than Mayor Alcombright's recent "master plan" announcement - smoke and mirrors.
you seem to forget that the former mayor kept taxes 'down', (even though they went up every year), by not balancing the budget correctly. The audit of the medical insurance trust for three years showed that as a fact. If the trust had been properly funded, (a 2.1 MILLION dollar shortfall for the three years of the audit), you would have been complaining about these raises many years ago. I only wish that the city could afford to have the trust fund audited for the entire 20+ years that the former mayor was mayor.
To Sad; you seem to forget in 2009 Conte Middle School had roughly only 350 kids in the building that used to house 1200 students when it closed as a high school in 1975, lets also remember in April of the 2008 budget the state short changed the city $1,200,000 where were the cuts suppose to come from when 1 school bus cost $40,000 a year to run. All this was done because of the downfall of our economy and no other reason.
Like every city in the country the mayor needs to cut the budget. ie Insurance and retirement for teachers, police, fireman and city workers.
Workers in the private sector have taken pay cuts and paid more insurance and been laid off for years with no raises. People on social seurity have not had an increase in two years. It is time we all share the pain.
:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
:: General Election: Deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 18
Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.
Absentee ballots are now available at the city clerk's office for the Sept. 27 preliminary city election. Voters may come in between the hours of 8 and 4:30 weekdays. Written reguests for mailed ballots can be sent to City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247. Deadline for absentee ballots is Monday, Sept. 26, at noon.
The preliminary election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, to narrow the field of three mayoral candidates to two. The general election to select nine city councilors and a mayor will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.