Built as a junior high in 1923 and named after its benefactor, the school will now become Hoosac Valley Elementary and hold Grades prekindergarten through 3.
ADAMS, Mass. — The official name of the elementary school may have changed, but the markers designating it as C.T. Plunkett School will remain in place.
School officials say they have no intention of erasing Plunkett's history from the school. Rather, the name was changed to Hoosac Valley Elementary as a way to unify the regional school district with the closure of Cheshire School.
Adams-Cheshire School Committee Chairman Paul Butler said the spirit of the Adams school's benefactor will remain a constant.
"I can tell you that no one meant to diminish the generosity of the Plunkett family or the impact they had to the town of Adams," Butler said. "I can't speak for my fellow committee members but it seemed that since the district is going through some major changes, especially at the elementary level, renaming might offer a fresh start."
There have been a number of complaints on social media about the name and accusations that district had not taken the feelings of Adams residents into account with change.
The School Committee voted to make the change a week ago because of time constraints that came with the transition. With the transferring of finances and other paperwork from Cheshire, the school needed a name.
School officials have discussed the change since the release the University of Massachusetts' Collins Center report that recommended the district change its name. Although the School Committee is in favor of a different name for the district, they felt there was more time to tap the communities for ideas.
As for the elementary school name, the School Committee did reach out to both communities and received a unanimous blessing from the Cheshire Selectmen. The Adams town administrator thought residents could accept the name over time but had urged the committee to allow a public process before making any major decisions.
The relationship between the two towns has been less than amicable over the past few months since the School Committee vote to close Cheshire Elementary and some have said on social media that the name change was only done to smooth over the tension.
"I don't think it was thought of as some sort of olive branch to Cheshire," he said. "Perhaps just a reconfigured school, new programs, aligned curriculum, a new effort to improve education across the board, and a new moniker to usher it in."
The name change added a new fire to the uneasiness between the towns and the school district. Adams residents have aired their grievances on social media and even questioned if the School Committee could make the change – which it does have the right to do.
Historical Commissioner and Historical Society member Eugene Michalenko said although he thought the name change was not appropriate, he knew of nothing in Plunkett's will that mandated the school be named for him.
Plunkett, whose family operated the Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Co., was chairman of the town's school committee when what was then the junior high was built in 1923. He purchased the land for the school and made up a shortfall in the budget for its construction.
Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco said his staff also reread the deed and saw nothing cementing Plunkett's name to the school.
The School Committee has no plan to change the name that is actually cemented on the building.
"As to the removal of any physical engraving on the building, I presume it will remain. I prefer to think of this as the district operating the Hoosac Valley Elementary within the C.T. Plunkett building," Butler said. "We may have signage made near the offices, but that has not been discussed either."
Butler added that rededicating the auditorium or gym in Plunkett’s name has not been discussed but could be looked at.
Superintendent Robert Putnam said he expected that the Plunkett name will be memorialized by the School Committee in some form over the coming year and since the founding of the district, the schools have been transitioning toward the Hoosac Valley title.
He said the Adams High School was replaced by Hoosac Valley High School in 1970 and the Adams Memorial Middle School was closed and students moved into the newly renovated Hoosac Valley Regional Middle and High School in 2012.
Butler said these changes will continue to happen if the goal is to move the entire district up to the Hoosac Valley campus – something both communities seem to be in favor of.
"Thinking long term, if at some point we do end up moving all grades to the Hoosac Campus, Hoosac Valley Elementary simply moves into whatever spaces will exist at that time," Butler said. "Also a good reason to leave engraving intact."
Putnam said the district is undergoing a massive change and a new identity is important.
"This September, all Adams and Cheshire pre-K through five students will, for the first time, attend school together," he said. "Naming the pre-K through 3 elementary Hoosac Valley Elementary establishes a pre-K through 12 identity for all of the Cheshire and Adams students."
"We are all Hoosac Valley Hurricanes."
Clarification added to indicate the town administrator had suggested a more public process in the naming.
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