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Clarksburg Gets 2-Week Vacation to Accommodate Construction

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Clarksburg School hopes to have 90 percent of the construction on the entrance done during a two-week holiday vacation.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Clarksburg students will get a full two weeks off over the Christmas holiday beginning with a half day on Friday, Dec. 20, and returning on Jan. 6, 2020.
The School Committee voted for the two-week block on Thursday to ensure the school will be vacant for construction on the new secure entrance. That means students will have both the Monday and Tuesday before Christmas and will also have Jan. 2 and 3 off as well. 
But it doesn't mean fewer days of school — the motion also tacked on three days at the end of the school year. 
The project is on a tight deadline, a project that Business Manager Jennifer Macksey said she wasn't even sure would happen until the bids were opened on Tuesday. And there's a deadline to use the $35,000 Safe Schools Grant from the state by the end of February. 
"I got to spend the money or I'm going to lose it," Macksey said Thursday during a lengthy discussion of how the teachers' union and school officials would document the calendar change (more conversation was planned on that). 
The entire project, including an asbestos abatement, will cost $104,000, with the balance coming from the $1 million in borrowing for capital projects authorized earlier this year by town meeting. 
The school will have to be cleared by 12:30 on Friday, Dec. 20, because that's when the abatement will begin. Macksey said the schedule is to have samples sent to the lab by 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 21, have the results back by Sunday and begin the abatement on Monday. 
"I can't say enough about the contractors that we're working with, Berkshire Carpet and Hilltown Demolition," Macksey said. "They've been very responsive and understand the short time period that we're working with."
The 60-year-old school's floor tiles are asbestos, which was used widely in construction materials before being banned in 1970. The entryway up to the stairs leading to the upper grades will be covered or replaced along with the teachers room. The tiles on the lower floor are in poor condition with many cracked or beginning to loosen. 
"We figured while we were doing the front end of the building that the entryway project would be a good time to cover those tiles up as well," said Superintendent John Franzoni. "And given our situation that's the best way to do it."
The framework for the glass entry will be is expected to arrive on Dec. 20 but the glass will not likely be installed until later in January. 
"We're hopeful that 90 percent of the work will be done by the time we come back on the 6th [of January]," Franzoni said. "It'll be a lot better than coming back on the 2nd or 3rd."
Macksey said the cost is high in part because the town is paying 100 percent to do repair work piece by piece since it rejected a $19 million full renovation and addition that would have been shared with the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Since then, there have been some volunteer projects done, new boilers installed and now the entrance.
"Just bear in mind, this is just a Band-Aid. Granted, the entranceway and the secure piece of that will be wonderful. That will make the Police Department very happy and it should make our parents happy," she said. "But there's a lot of work to be done in this building." 
Franzoni agreed, noting that the initial volunteer work group convened after the failed school vote has diminished to a few people, with mainly Robert Norcross and Thomas Bona keeping in touch.
They've been a great help, he said, but "these projects that we're doing are more than just doing some work outside on the weekend. These are projects that have to go through a bidding process and have to be funded. So I just echo her point. And so there's going to be some expense involved with them. So we're trying to do it efficient as possible, but by doing it piece by piece, it's going to be more expensive that way."
Town Administrator Rebecca Stone said she wants to talk more with school officials about capital projects as she as already requested lists from other town departments. (Macksey turned around and handed her list in almost immediately.) Stone, who started last month, said there were 20 something projects on her desk when she arrived but only two had been done. 
"So I'm hoping to maybe bridge that gap between, I hate to say it, the Town Hall and the school, because there's so many projects," she said. She added she was not fully aware of what had occurred during the school vote but said, "a lot of times change is good. We can keep trying to get there together. I think that's what I'm hoping — we can keep moving forward trying to find out what you need for space and what it is that's lacking."
Principal Tara Barnes said it is difficult to develop programming for students because there is no space available. The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has told the school it is underrepresented for programming space for special education. 
"Since the vote did not pass and the town has voted to not renovate and add some space to this building, it's clear that the needs are still there," said Principal Tara Barnes. "Those needs didn't disappear just because we voted no for the project. ...
"The town, I think, just needs to keep in the forefront of the conversation that that's still there."
Stone suggested the attached library might be used for more space and possibly could be moved elsewhere, such as the Senior Center. She wanted to speak more with town departments and school officials about their needs and possible options. 
"This is a beautiful area, you know, the Northern Berkshires, it's a prime area for people to be moving to," Stone said. "And it would be a shame to have to turn away students because we don't have what you need here."
In other business, the School Committee delayed a decision on reinstating so-called "blizzard bags" for this year. DESE has indicated it would be phasing out the pilot program that allowed teachers to send home age-appropriate prepared lessons during snow days so that those days could be counted as being in school. 
Barnes brought the subject up because she noted the region has already received 20 inches of snow, causing the first snow day of the year, and the school has extended into June by three days to accommodate the entrance construction. The teachers are on board, she said. School Committee member Eric Denette said he would like some more feedback from parents and Chairwoman Laura Wood agreed. 
The principal said she would send out a survey with her email announcing the vacation dates and try to get more input from parents in other ways. 
The committee decided not to move to a single-signature system for warrants. Macksey had brought forth the concept at the last meeting but committee members felt that they worked well in getting things signed in a timely manner. Franzoni also said it may be less of an issue in the future because the town of Clarksburg, the largest district in the Northern Berkshire School Union, to become the point on paying bills with the other districts reimbursing. 
He said there had been problems in gathering five checks to send in to pay utilities, including having National Grid threaten to turn off the power at one point because of payment delays. 
• Barnes reported that she was able to hire a math intervention assistant with grant funds. The school is also offering some more electives for Grades 7 and 8, including cooking, Chinese characters, and Spanish. The occupational therapy assistant is also offering "Calm," 20 minutes of de-stressing strategies for students who need an academic or behavioral intervention. She spoke to three boys in the class on Thursday.
"The feedback that I got from them was that they really enjoyed their time in there," she said. "And what we're hoping for is that they're utilizing those strategies in other moments during their day."


Tags: Clarksburg School,   school security,   

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Clarksburg Officials Still Hoping for School Roof Money

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Town officials are still hoping to get funding to fix the roof at Clarksburg School. 
Chairman Ronald Boucher and Select Board member Danielle Luchi voted Wednesday night to send a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito requesting the visit the school to see the work being accomplished there. 
"I think they really need to see it firsthand," said Boucher. "I know Patrick Carnevale (director of the governor's Western Massachusetts office) came out and did his thing, but it's — he's not the person that you need to see this."
The town has been advocating for the governor's office to release an earmark for $500,000 that state Sen. Adam Hinds had placed in a capital spending bill nearly two years ago. The executive office has been reluctant to invest in the school since the town decisively defeated a $19 million addition and renovation project. The Massachusetts School Building Authority and the state Department of Education had determined that the 60-year-old structure does not meet contemporary educational needs.
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