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Cheshire Selectmen Warn School Renovation Tough Sell

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The Selectmen suggested it could take a generation for Cheshire to support another school renovation project after losing its school.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Any renovation of Hoosac Valley Elementary School will be a hard sell in Cheshire.
 
That was the message on Tuesday from the Board of Selectmen to John Vosburgh, the new superintendent fo the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District.
 
Vosburgh informed the board that representatives from the Massachusetts School Building Authority will visit the Adams school this month for a senior study of the building.
 
"The purpose is to check out the facility to see what the issues are and talk to the folks involved," Vosburgh said. "They want to get the feel if there is an appetite for the project. It is very preliminary."
 
Earlier this year, the district submitted a statement of interest to the MSBA, which is done on a regular basis. Out of 70 applications, 28 districts were chosen for this preliminary survey.
 
Selectman Robert Ciskowski said a renovation of the former C.T. Plunkett may not go over well after the closing of Cheshire Elementary School in 2016. Cheshire residents would have to foot a portion of the bill.
 
"I think you are going to need a couple generations before Cheshire would support something like that. That would be shooting from the hip," he said. "There is still a lot of bad feelings ... we were told how good that building was and how bad ours was ... I think that would be a hard sell."
 
Vosburgh, who joined the district a year after the closure, agreed and said the optimal scenario would be a new building next to Hoosac Valley High School and creating a one-campus district. 
 
"I understand it is going to take a long time to heal ... and this is just part of the process," he said. 
 
He added that the MSBA requires the district to submit different options, so the application did include this new build as well as a renovation at Hoosac Valley Elementary. He said if they go further in the process, the MSBA will evaluate all the options and decide how much each will cost the communities. 
 
The former Taconic High School principal said, either way, any decision is a long way off. 
 
"It's years," he said. "I first started on the Taconic [School Building] Committee in 2007 and the school just opened. So that was 11 years."
 
Vosburgh also updated the Selectmen on the district's recently acquired Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System data and without going into a formal presentation said the district has improved. 
 
"While we were previously a district that required assistance, we are no longer in that category at the elementary, middle and high school level," he said. "There is more work to do with some groups but for the most part, they have done well."
 
As for meeting goals set by the state, he said, the district is at 75 percent — making it the fourth highest in Berkshire County for reaching its set targets. 
 
He said the district will continue following the turnaround plan for another year and will continue to strive to improve its status by increasing test scores, SAT scores, and graduation rates.
 
"When I was interviewed, people were asking about school choice and there is no magic bullet for school choice you really just have to produce a really good product — the kind students and families do not want to leave," Vosburgh said. "If we can get into a consistent pattern of performing well ... these things will start to improve our image." 
 
The Selectmen granted Vosburgh's request to alter Edmund St. John IV's position on the Regional Agreement Amendment Committee from a selectmen representative to an at-large member.
 
"We really are almost done, and he has been at every meeting," Vosburgh said.
 
St. John, who also had previously served on the School Committee, left the select board to apply for the soon-to-be-vacated town administrator position. The Selectmen cannot add another Cheshire representative to the committee, formed to update the district's antiquated agreement, because it would throw off the committee's balance of Cheshire and Adams representatives. 
 
The Selectmen agreed to remove the current at-large member who has only attended one meeting and allow St. John to remain.
 
"There is only one meeting left why wouldn't we let him not stay on," Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said. "It's all over with." 

Tags: ACRSD,   MSBA,   

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