|By G. Michael Dobbs
Students, staff and members of the community joined together for the groundbreaking of the new Elias Brookings Museum Magnet School on July 10.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD Students and teachers joined with state and local officials in marking the formal ground breaking of the new Elias Brookings Museum Magnet School on July 10.
The elementary school in the Maple High Six Corners neighborhood was damaged in the June 1, 2011 tornado. Students have been attending the school in mobile temporary buildings constructed in Ruth Elizabeth Park adjacent to the school.
School Superintendent Daniel Warwick explained to Reminder Publications that traditionally school officials would have considered repairing the existing structure that was built in 1926. He credited Mayor Domenic Sarno and state Treasurer Steven Grossman with working out a plan to build a new school building across the street on a location owned by Springfield College.
"It was the right thing to do with our money," Warwick said.
He noted the classroom size did not meet modern standards and that "rebuilding made no sense."
Warwick described the new school "as a beacon for the rebuilding efforts in this neighborhood." He added the opening date for the new school is set at this time for January 2015.
Despite the temporary facilities, Warwick said the Brookings School, one of the city's Level Four schools, has "made more academic achievement gains than nearly almost any other school in the Commonwealth."
The existing building, Warwick said, will be marketed for redevelopment. Although it did sustain damage, particularly to some interior walls, the superintendent noted the structure was "well built."
Brookings School Principal Terry Powe welcomed the new structure, but said what the students and teachers will do in the building is more important than the building itself.
She said her staff and students had received "support from every corner." She especially thanked Pastor Steve William Sr. of the Revival Time Evangelistic Center for the use of his church building for a variety of school activities in the days following the tornado.
Rita Coppola-Wallace, capital asset construction director, said the new school would have 65,000 square feet of space, and would still be a grade one through five school serving the same number of students it currently has. The classrooms would be of modern size the old school's classrooms were about half of the modern standard and it will have a cafeteria natural light and a gym 2,000 square feet larger than the former gym.
A key characteristic of the school is that the academic facilities will be able to be secured so that community groups can use both the cafeteria and the gym for events at night.
Sarno thanked state Sen. James Welch for his legislative effort that will ensure the Commonwealth pay for the entire cost of the building.
"This is a wonderful day in the city of Springfield," Sarno said.
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