Renovations to former Chicopee High officially begin
| By G. Michael Dobbs
Participating in the groundbreaking were City Council President George Moreau, state Rep. Joseph Wagner, Mayor Richard Kos, Massachusetts School Building Authority Executive Director Jack McCarthy, Treasurer Marie Laflamme and School Committee Vice Chairperson Marjorie Wojcik.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
CHICOPEE – For generations of students the cathedral-like building on Front Street presented a landmark in their lives. The renovations underway to convert the former Chicopee High School to a middle school will ensure the school’s future.
Mayor Richard Kos was joined by a large number of local officials on July 22 to officially begin the work with a groundbreaking ceremony.
The school was active until 2004 when it was replaced by the new Chicopee High School. Since that time it has served as the home of the city’s alternative high school and as the headquarters fro the School Department’s maintenance office.
School Superintendent Richard Rege said with a smile, “This is a fantastic day for the city, the Chicopee Public Schools and for me.”
The new middle school that will be in the historic building will replace the Fairview Veterans Middle School.
While serving as principal of Fairview, Rege made the recommendation that the former Chicopee High School should be used as a middle school. He explained that Fairview was not designed to be a middle school and lacked the large common areas such as gym and auditorium a middle school requires.
He added it didn’t make sense the city’s two middle schools were in such close proximity to each other and the distance that parents had to travel to the school across the city was a deterrent in participation.
The opening of the new middle school in August 2015 is expected to save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in bussing expenses, officials have said while developing the plan.
Jack McCarthy, executive director of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, said, “One of the things that turn me on is when we can save an old building.”
Kos recalled that in 1997 that in the audience for the groundbreaking were some of the people who served on a committee in 1997 to determine what to do with the high school – whether to relocate it or to renovate.
“It was not an easy decision,” he said.
As mayor, Kos closed down the municipal nursing home, a move that made way for the site of the new Chicopee High School.
Noting he is attended school and graduated from the venerable building, Kos said, “It’s been part of the community, part of the fabric.”