City seeks approval of long list of school improvements

Feb. 11, 2016 | G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – The School Committee approved the administration to send the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) letters of interest on a long list of school repairs at its meeting on Feb. 4.

The letters are the step in the application process in the next round of funding.

Recently the MSBA announced it would fund 80 percent of the estimated $35 million cost to construct a new school to replace the 118-year-old Brightwood Elementary School. It also approved $9.1 million for new windows and doors at the Brunton and Walsh elementary schools and the Springfield Public Day High School and roof repairs for STEM Academy.

The new list of requests going to the MSBA includes:
• Balliet Elementary School, the installation of a new roof and new windows and exterior doors;
•  Hiram L. Dorman Elementary School, the installation of a new roof;
• Kensington Avenue Elementary School, the installation of a new roof;
• Marcus Kiley Middle School, the installation of new windows and exterior doors;
• Mary M. Lynch Elementary School, the installation of a new roof;
• Arthur T. Talmadge Elementary School, the installation of new windows;
• Alfred Zanetti Montessori Elementary School, the installation of new windows and exterior;
• Daniel B. Brunton Elementary School, for the construction of a new addition and the installation of a new roof;
• William N. DeBerry School, to replace the structural framing of the floors and the roof in the original portion of the building, for the interior reconfiguration of the bathrooms and classrooms in the original portion of the building, and for the installation of a new roof for the entire school facility;
• Gerena Community School, for the replacement and installation of the HVAC systems for the entire educational complex and for the associated exterior envelope repairs required by the new HVAC systems.

The list concludes with a request for a new school to replace the Homer Street Elementary School.

School Committee member Barbara Gresham questioned why Brightwood had been selected over Homer in terms of replacement. Mayor Domenic Sarno and School Superintendent Daniel Warwick explained the administration had submitted a request for Homer, but the final decision was the responsibility of the MSBA. Staff members of the MSBA toured both buildings to determine the final outcome.

Preliminary vote

The School Committee approved a preliminary vote that if finally affirmed, would name the school library at the Homer Street School after the late businessman and philanthropist Michael Balise.

Vice Chair Christopher Collins explained the Buildings and Maintenance Subcommittee would now discuss the change and will conduct a public hearing on the matter. If approved by the subcommittee, the entire School Committee would take a final vote.

New educational initiatives

With the approval of the School Committee, Springfield would be the largest school district in the Commonwealth to include CPR training as part of its health curriculum.

All sophomores will receive the training.

Susan Canning, of KEVS Foundation, donated funds to help underwrite the effort.

Also approved was a new track and field program at the High School of Science & Technology that would be for the school’s special education students.

Director of Athletics Michael Martin explained the new program is the result of Special Olympics partnering with The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. He said current track and field team members would serve as mentors to the other students, who would compete in hopefully a six-school league. Martin said three area schools are currently in the program, with more to come.

The goal is to make the track and field program inclusive and his plan to eventually have all the high schools in the city involved in the program.

Martin added the program should start this spring and will have very little cost associated with it.

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