North Adams Panel to Review Possible School Names

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The School Building Committee is now meeting at City Hall; Conte School is closed and administrative offices moved to Main Street.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The new elementary school is likely to retain the name of the county's late congressman, but a committee will be reformed to review some options.

Mayor Richard Alcombright told the School Building Committee on Monday that, according to policy, the superintendent is in charge of the process of determining school names.

The School Committee charged Superintendent James Montepare to begin that review at its last meeting, said Alcombright, chairman of the School Committee.

"I certainly haven't heard a clamoring from the community that there has to be a name change at the school but it keeps coming up," he said. "We will address it at the next School Committee meeting."

A panel made up of Alcombright, Montepare and a member each from the School Building Committee, School Committee and Historical Commission will meet to discuss possible names, including retaining Conte.

A possible name change has been raised occasionally during the design reviews; the name "Conte" is carved into stonework on the building so there's a cost connected to changing the name. Committee member Keith Bona joked that if there is a new name, it should be kept short because "each letter is a cost."

Silvio O. Conte Middle School was named for the popular Republican congressman who served 16 terms representing the 1st Massachusetts District. Conte died at age 70 in 1991 while still in office. A number of things bear his name, including Conte Community School in Pittsfield and the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

When the new Drury High School was built in the 1970s, the old building was repurposed as a middle school and named for Conte. Sullivan School is named for longtime Principal John Sullivan, who was its first principal when it opened as East School.

The committee also determined that it would make another element of the school design proprietary in the bidding. Information technology hardware will be required to be made by Cisco Systems to align with the other schools; last meeting they voted to make the HVAC Anderson Controls to prevent multiple service contracts.

Some $30,000 was cut from the design with the elimination of automatic faucets, toilets and hand dryers at the request of committee member and school facilities director Matt Neville.

"The everyday use, the everyday abuse that student bathrooms take daily ... for the price-tag difference, I'd rather have regular," he said because of concerns of maintaining and replacing units in the future. "It's much easier if we have them in stock. I'm just thinking of the overall costs once the building completed."

There were concerns that the children would be enchanted with "the magic" of the motion-sensor facilities, leading to overuse, be frightened — or simply not learn to use facilities because everything was being done automatically.

In other business:
Alcombright said headway has been made in negotiating with the abutting property owner on taking some land to build a new retaining wall. He expected to have something at the next meeting.
The Architectural Access Board has waived the half-inch stop on the school's many classroom doors, meaning they will not have to be ground down.
The committee is awaiting comments from the Massachusetts School Building Authority on the 90 percent cost estimates with the anticipation of going out to bid at 100 percent on or about Jan. 20.

Tags: Conte School,   school building,   school building committee,   school project,   

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