Demolition has begun at the former Conte middle school. A groundbreaking ceremony will be held in two weeks to formally kick off its transformation into an elementary school.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Committee reported Tuesday night that the Colegrove Park school renovation project has begun and a groundbreaking ceremony is being planned.
Mayor Richard Alcombright has set a ceremony for noon on Wednesday, May 21, to formally begin the 16-month project.
"We are up and running, and the fence is up, the guys are over there emptying out the building," Superintendent James Montepare said. "I believe things are on track."
The fence around the property went up late last week and roll-off containers have been situated around the school building for demolition.
PDS Engineering & Construction Inc. of Bloomfield, Conn., was awarded the construction bid for the nearly $30 million project that will renovate the former middle (as Conte) and high school (as Drury) into an elementary school. The renovated building will replace Sullivan Elementary School.
The new school is also has a new name as Colegrove Park Elementary School, a decision made by the School Committee last month to recognize both a historic city figure and a neighborhood.
Montepare said he has received furniture samples that are being tested in the elementary schools. He added that there will be school visits during which the committee can see possible furnishings.
Along with the renovation update, the committee approved the creation of a subcommittee to update and develop a new athletics policy.
"It's time to take a look at things across the board — from student contracts, coaching positions, requirements for coaches, eligibility, regulations, and hiring practices," Montepare said. "It's a monster to manage, and there are a lot moving parts."
Montepare suggested creating a committee with volunteers from the School Committee, coaches, parents, teachers, the athletic director, and students.
"I don't want to make it too big of a committee, but there must be representation," Montepare said.
He specifically mentioned the need to adopt a concussion policy and re-evaluate eligibility for student athletes.
The board also approved Greylock Elementary fifth-grade trip to Mystic aquarium in Connecticut, but discussed the possibility to have a collective fifth-grade field trip that would better tie the three elementary schools together and give all of the students an equal opportunity.
While Greylock will be going to Mystic, Sullivan will take a trip to Howe Caverns but Brayton fifth-graders do not have a trip planned.
Committee member Lawrence Taft said it may be better if all students could benefit from the same trip
"It's a wonderful event for the kids, and I remember my sixth-grade trip to the Boston aquarium," Taft said. "It was the first time I ever saw the city; it was one of the biggest thrills of my life, and it would be great to make sure that all the kids have similar experiences."
Montepare said there may be difficulties in managing such a large number of kids, and it might be better to have students take the same trip at different times. He agreed it would be beneficial to look into the idea because the committee is re-evaluating many of the district's programs.
"It is time to review where we are with things, and we have been doing that the past three or four years right now because things are moving so fast," he said. "We are still running on 10-year-old fuel, and everything needs to be looked at."
Vice Chairwoman Heather Boulger announced that Drury High School has been nominated on the Washington Post's most-challenging school index.
"It's really significant for us up here to show the culture change that we have had as well as the Advanced Placement tests and programs we have," Boulger said.
The Post determines a school's ranking by the percentage of Advanced Placement and similar tests given in a year compared to the amount of students who graduate, not the scores derived.
"The Challenge Index is designed to identify schools that have done the best job in persuading average students to take college-level courses and tests," the Post states in a Q&A about the index.
Out of 3,500 schools nationwide, Drury ranks 1,270 and is in the top 4 percent of challenging schools. It ranks 50th in the state and has an "equity and excellence" rate of 14 percent of students graduating passing at least one college-level class.