To the Editor:
As the assistant principal at Sullivan and Greylock Elementary schools and a member of the School Building Committee, I felt compelled to respond to the opinions expressed in Katherine Montgomery's letter to the editor of March  and statements Robert Moulton has made to the press regarding the proposed Conte renovation.
OPINION: Ms. Montgomery stated that "Conte Middle School is hardly an ideal elementary school" and "It's restricted site offers very little outdoor space for children whose ages range from 5 to 12."
FACT: The renovation calls for playground areas bigger than the current Sullivan and Greylock playground areas combined and in addition will include two half basketball courts. The gymnasium will be more than twice the size of the current Sullivan and Greylock gymnasiums and will have bleachers and a stage for performances.
OPINION: "In all the arguments for the project, I never hear that the children's welfare is first."
FACT: At Building Committee meetings and presentations, educators, administrators and educational consultants spoke of the planning for, and consideration of, the students' educational, physical, emotional and social needs. The proposed building includes state-of-the-art accommodations for technology, art and music, with collaborative learning centers on each floor. Another benefit is that the building will be cost effective and energy efficient with "green certification" and will have spectacular natural light. The welfare of the children has most certainly been the crux of all of the planning.
OPINION: "The Committee that decided on Conte never tried to find a good site for a new school in the part of the city served by Sullivan School. They did not even look at the land the city owns in that area."
FACT: The School Building Committee, architects and engineers considered and examined all available sites. Given the available options and the scope of the project, Conte was repeatedly the site of choice. At several of the forums, the question of building on the Little League field on Kemp Avenue was raised. While a school could be built on this site, there is not adequate space to include playgrounds or bus loops.
OPINION: Conte is unsuitable as it is "surrounded by busy streets."
FACT: The new Conte offers two off-street loops — one for the buses and one for the parents allowing them to safely drop off and pick up their children. There will be more parking spaces than we currently have at Sullivan or Greylock.
FACT: Many area schools are built on main corridors. The proximity of the buildings, grounds and parking lots to the street has been addressed.
OPINION: It would be "better to spend the money to repair and enlarge Sullivan School."
FACT: Sullivan School is built on five different levels of land and it is not handicapped accessible. Once any major repair or renovation begins, we are legally required to make the building handicapped accessible. The engineers and architects have exhausted every possible scenario in an attempt to renovate Sullivan School but the land on which it is located makes this cost prohibitive.
OPINION: Mr. Robert Moulton suggests that we go back to the drawing board and "review its options again."
FACT: We have gone back and reviewed the options multiple times. Discussions have been vetted for the past two years and current feasible options were examined. Additionally, if the City of North Adams walks away from the $23 million guaranteed by the 80 percent reimbursement of $29.6 million, we will need to begin this entire Massachusetts School Building Authority process again with no guarantee of approval. Who then will pay for a failing Conte as well as the repair of a failing Sullivan? The citizens of North Adams will pay and there will be no one providing 80 cents on the dollar to pay for it.
FACT: The School Building Committee hired a team of architects and engineers to evaluate our city and provide us with the possible options. These professionals are not local and have no political or financial ties to this community. They are experts in their respective fields and have provided us with their professional opinions on the best options for our students. The School Building Committee evaluated the options over many months and dozens of meetings. Collectively, we made an informed decision based on the facts presented to us. Conte was the preferred option, not just once, but twice. It was first approved when the committee was seeking a two-project approval. When that was not approved, Conte became the final choice as Sullivan was in greater need of repairs. Our elected officials on the City Council considered all the information given to them and gave the project their approval.
If you have questions about the specifics of the plans I urge you to contact a School Building Committee member or Superintendent [James] Montepare who is in possession of all the documentation from the meetings. You may also locate this information on our district website www.napsk12.org.
It is your right and obligation to make an informed decision based on these facts rather than on misinformation and opinions. I urge the citizens of North Adams to put politics aside and make a decision based on facts. Our children deserve no less.
March 11, 2013