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North Adams Ponders Elementary School Options

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Few people showed up for Thursday's presentation at Drury High School on the new school options.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Building Committee ran through the options again on Thursday night following the state's rejection of its two-school plan.

School officials had hoped the Massachusetts School Building Authority would be amenable to renovating or building two K-7 schools to address the city's space issues with closure of Conte Middle School.

The committee had opted to present a new Greylock School and a renovated Conte as its preference. Now the committee has to decide on one 310-student school — or build a 620-student school.

On Thursday night, the committee reviewed the options again in hopes of getting more input from the community, but the audience at Drury High School was sparse.

"We need to get more dialogue," said Carl Weber of Strategic Building Solutions, trying to encourage input on the Greylock plans. "This doesn't feel good."

For the most part, the options were similar to those reviewed over the past year with the exception of two new footprints for Sullivan Elementary School. Parents last year had reacted angrily at suggestions that the Kemp Avenue school be shuttered in favor of a renovated Conte in the downtown.

The Sullivan options by Margo Jones Architects were placing a three-story school on Kemp Park with limited parking and play area. The ballfield couldn't be moved to the current school location because of the sharp incline.

Building a new Sullivan in place would also mean a three-story building with even less room for play and retaining walls of 15-20 feet on the steeper side. Building in place would extensive site work and relocating the children at a cost of $1.5 million to $2.5 million, none of which would be reimbursed by the state.

A new sketch for Sullivan School shows the tight fit at the current site. Left, Max Quinn talked about his experiences at the city's new and old schools.

Several parents in the audience expressed doubt over the use of Conte, describing it as "dark and dingy" and its location on a heavily traveled road as potentially dangerous for youngsters.

The other options are to renovate Greylock, build a new Greylock or build a "super" Greylock for 620 students.

The consultants, put on the spot, declined to say which option they thought best but rather offered the committee their impressions.

"You've expreseed over and over again that you do not want to put middle school students back in a large facility," said Margo Jones. "I think it's fair to say that the one for the 310 is better."

Weber said it was up to the community make the selection, adding it was a tough choice that many school districts with aging buildings have had to make.

"The idea is that they're all three equal," he said. "The building does everything that needs to be done accordig to MSBA standards so each option you see is fulfilling the educational requirements — the sizes, the spaces of the classes, ADA, fire supression, all that stuff — it's all taken care of in each one of these."

The 310 schools are designed for two classes in each grade; the 620 for four. Some in the audience asked if there could be a mid-sized school that would take the pressure off. Jones said the next size would be 450 — three classes per grade.

School Building Options Cost in Millions City's Share
Greylock Addition   28.6 7
Conte Renovation 31.5  6.4
New Greylock     27.7  5.6
Sullivan at Kemp 28.7  6.4
New Sullivan  32.7   8.6
Greylock 620  47.2  10.7

Superintendent James Montepare said that size would be difficult in aligning classes and staffing along the K-7 model now being used; rather, the middle school students could find themselves at one school again. It would mean throwing out the current standards and starting again, said school officials.

Max Quinn, a Drury High student and member of the School Building Committee, said he had attended old Conte and new Brayton Elementary School - which was not his neighborhood school.

"A school is a school and if a child feels welcome [at Conte] as I did, as a good portion of my fellow classmants did, a child will feel safe and comfortable and feel quite able to learn," he said. "Let's not just think about the current conditions, those will change."

Paperwork has to be in by March 5 to make the next SBA board meeting on March 28. If not, the project will have to wait another two months. Mayor Richard Alcombright said he expects the committee to make a decision at the end of the month.

He encouraged residents to attend the next meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 29, at 6:30 p.m. in the Drury auditorium.

"Continue to give us our thoughts and input ... please come back to the meeting and bring a friend — bring two friends."




Tags: school project,   

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