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Crosby Elementary has been selected as a the possible site of a combined Crosby and Conte elementary grade-span school.

Pittsfield's Crosby Elementary Eyed For Combined School Site

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Crosby Elementary School is staged for a statement of interest that could open a revamped campus in 2029 as part of larger plans to restructure the district

Superintendent Joseph Curtis on Wednesday presented the details of a potential SOI to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for the elementary school that would combine Conte Community School and Crosby onto one campus with two buildings and shared facilities.

"We are cautious and saying if everything moves along as we would hope that we have the potential opening of a new school facility on the Crosby site in 2029," he said.

Following approvals from the committee and the City Council, a rough timeline shows a feasibility study in 2026 with design and construction ranging from 2027 to 2029. School leaders have mapped out formal opportunities for collaboration with both entities ahead of the SOI due date in April.

"This is exciting. I know you've been working on this a long time," Committee member Sara Hathaway said.

"It's very exciting," Curtis replied. "When we think about our current attendance districts, I really feel it divided our city quite a bit and to be able to widen that net and have our student population certainly be much more diversified in elementary and then completely diversified if we move to a 5,6,7, 8 division of our middle schools, where all of our students will attend one school for Grades 5 and 6 and then 7 and 8. It's really moving forward where we need to be."

The MSBA requires that projects meet one or more of eight outline priorities. The most relevant priority to this effort is "replacement or addition to obsolete buildings in order to provide a full range of programs consistent with state and approved local requirements as determined in the judgments of the authority."

Crosby was identified as having the greatest opportunity for school construction, as it has a large area to build on with little disruption and yields potential for a lower and upper elementary school on the same site.

Curtis explained that school attendance zones are a point of discussion for the entire school district and for this project.

Currently, eight attendance zones designate where a student will go to elementary school. Part of the vision is to collapse those zones into three with hopes of building a plan that incorporates partner schools in each attendance zone.

The West Side zone can potentially have both partner schools, Crosby and Conte, on the same site.  These partner schools could share several common spaces including the gym, cafeteria library, and potential administrative offices which could result in a reduction in costs for maintenance.

This plan has the potential to house Grades pre-K to first grade in one school and Grades 2 to 4 in another with both having their own identities and administrations.

"As it stands currently, the main statement of interest will be related to Crosby Elementary School but a statement of interest would also be submitted on Conte Community School," Curtis said.

"We do have to submit two because our proposal would require we combine both schools onto one site."



The MSBA receives 60 to 70 proposals every year and typically between 15 and 20 are accepted, he said, so just because the district is authorized to submit a statement of interest does not guarantee that the project will be accepted.

If Curtis is authorized by the School Committee to submit an SOI by April 12, the status will be known by December. Following that, a roughly $1 million feasibility study would need to be conducted.

"We are doing a restructuring study, which you'll see that is an important part or would be an important part of our statement of interest," he added, as it shows the MSBA that the entire school district, its structure, attendance zones, and grade spans are being studied.

A joint City Council and School Committee information workshop on the SOI and restructuring project has been proposed for March 6 followed by the committee's vote on the SOI on March 13 and the council's vote on March 36. Curtis emphasized that these dates are approximate.

DRA Architects, which was hired for the restructuring, is drafting a long-term plan for the district that extends to 2050, suggesting possible projects in order or priority. Crosby is at the top of the list.

"The spacing requirements that the MSBA puts forth as as guidelines for a new building project, we have been comparing those guidelines to our existing buildings and even the renovated buildings are all very undersized for today's needs," Curtis said, adding that roughly every renovated school would need to double in size to meet the spacing guidelines.

Chair William Cameron advocated for a walk-through of both buildings with the City Council, which will be held.

Various grade-span models for the district have been presented through community meetings and ultimately, the School Committee will decide on it.

"The reorganization models with the maps and so forth, that's not done by administrative fiat. That has to be voted by the school committee to keep schools open or closed, to change the grade structure in schools, any significant change in the instructional program, all of those things require school committee action in order to be affected," he added.

"So I didn't want people to think that everything you saw was basically a done deal. Virtually nothing is a done deal at this point."

Curtis said it is not necessary to make the grade alignment decisions before the statement of interest, as the district is "demonstrating that we have done a capacity restructuring study and here are the possibilities so that MSBA knows that we have done our work before the actual statement."

The conversation also drifted into the work needed at Pittsfield High School.  Curtis reported that maintenance issues at PHS will be discussed by the School Building Needs Commission and that the school's renovation is currently priced at around $120 million. 


Tags: Crosby School,   Pittsfield Public Schools,   

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Dalton Board of Health Approves Green Burial Verbiage

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
DALTON, Mass. — The Board of Health approved wording for the green burial guidelines during its meeting on Wednesday. 
 
The guideline stipulates that "Ebola or any other diseases that the CDC or Massachusetts Department of Public Health deem unsuitable for green burials can not be approved by the town Board of Health." 
 
The board has been navigating how to include communicable diseases in its guidelines to prevent them from spreading.  
 
Town Health Agent Agnes Witkowski has been working to clarify the state's guidelines regarding infectious diseases and green burials. 
 
She attended a presentation on green burials and consulted with people from various organizations, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where it was determined that the state is behind in developing guidelines for green burials.
 
Currently, the only disease that would prevent someone from being able to have a green burial is ebola, board member Amanda Staples-Opperman said. Bugs would take care of anything else. 
 
The town running into situations surrounding an unknown disease would be a very rare occurrence, board members said. 
 
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