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The planned expanded and renovated Clarksburg School is seen in an image provided by Jones Whitsett Architects.

Clarksburg School Committee Plans Outreach Campaign

By Stephen DravisPrint Story | Email Story

The vote on the $19 million project will be held on Sept. 27. If approved there, voters will later be asked for a debt exclusion for the town's share of $7.7 million.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The Clarksburg School Committee plans to make a month-long push to get the word out about the proposed $19 million addition/renovation project ahead of a Sept. 27 special town meeting.
 
The late September meeting is one of the first decision points this fall for the town of 1,700. If the project passes the floor vote at the special town meeting, voters will be asked to go to the polls on Oct. 10 for a debt exclusion vote to approve what is estimated to be a $7.7 million town share.
 
On Tuesday, after reviewing the latest financial information and approving a formal request to the Board of Selectmen to set the special town meeting, the School Building Committee discussed its strategy for informing the public ahead of the votes.
 
On Aug. 29, officials hope to give a presentation at a monthly breakfast at the senior center. And after Labor Day, volunteers will go door-to-door to engage voters.
 
On Sept. 13, the committee plans to host a public information center at the school and offer tours of the 65-year-old facility.
 
In the meantime, the committee will produce an updated informational flier with facts about the project, which has an anticipated reimbursement rate of 70 percent from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
 
In all its efforts, the School Building Committee will take the role of explaining the reasons behind the project, how the new school building will better serve the town's educational needs and the potential impact on the tax rate.
 
Advocacy for a "yes" vote on the project will be the purview of the school's Parent Teacher Group, which was represented at Tuesday's SBC meeting.
 
Principal Tara Barnes emphasized to her fellow committee members that their place was not to be advocates.
 
"If we're sending someone from this committee out, we have to make sure we're just giving information and curtailing our enthusiasm around what we want to see," Barnes said. "I think the PTG can let fly wherever they want."
 
The school district's owner's project manager from Potomac Capital Advisors of Boston agreed.
 
"The building committee members can be informative and explain the project, but when it gets into the merits of the project and saying this will be good for the tax rate, they're really not supposed to do that," Brian Laroche said. "It's important to get the information out there, and that's the job of the committee.
 
"Another component, explaining the merits, should probably be the PTG."
 
The Building Committee discussed sending out pairs of people on the door-to-door visit, coupling a member of the committee with a PTG volunteer in order to provide both perspectives.
 
In any event, the committee hopes to send people out with a set of talking points so that everyone is presenting the same information in face-to-face meetings.
 
While the emphasis of the committee's public work will be on answering questions about the project, two members Tuesday shared the reasons why they think the district needs to move ahead with the renovation.
 
Superintendent Jon Lev, who also serves on the Berkshire County Education Task Force that recently recommended a 10-year aspiration to form a single district for the county, suggested that whatever form regionalization takes, the communities with up-to-date school buildings will be better positioned to keep their pupils close to home.
 
"The schools that cost a lot of money to keep up - those are the ones that are the ones that are going to close," Lev said. "The No. 2 thing is, can the town afford all that [maintenance] money to keep the school up and keep it the size it is now?
 
"To me, this really is a question of whether we have a school or not in Clarksburg. In the end, that's what people are going to have to vote on."
 
The current Level 1 school is a draw for new residents that helps keep property values up, Town Administrator Carl McKinney said.
 
McKinney also implied there is a moral imperative to renovating the school.
 
"The generation before us built great things in this country," McKinney said. "I think my generation — I'm 55 — has ridden on their coattails and driven the infrastructure into the ground. We have to step up to the plate. We have to fix the things we have."

Tags: Clarksburg school project,   

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