By Carley Dangona
WEST SPRINGFIELD – After reviewing the West Springfield Public School District’s concerns regarding the outdated systems and overpopulation at the Philip G. Coburn Elementary School, the Town Council approved a Statement of Interest (SOI) for the school.
At its regular meeting on March 17, the council unanimously approved the submission of a SOI to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), seeking the renovation or replacement of Coburn that was built in 1927.
“Children are being educated in spaces that were not meant as classrooms,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Russell Johnston said.
He gave an example of a kindergarten class for English Language Learning that is conducted in a former locker room, which has “no windows” and “poor ventilation.” In addition, there are makeshift classrooms in the auditorium also in use.
“I think it’s important that when the window opens up for us to apply for this type of funding that we always put the West Springfield name out there and we make sure the MSBA knows what our concerns are. We need to invest in the continued re-improvement of our facilities here in West Springfield, having buildings with aging infrastructure,” Johnston said.
He noted that the SOI is merely a proposal and does not obligate the town to any cost.
Johnston stressed, “[The current conditions of Coburn] are not conducive to the quality of education we want to offer. The teachers, students, parents and administration make the best of it, they don’t complain.
Ideally, the district hopes to be approved for the replacement of the school. Johnston stated an emergency motion from the council would be required if the aged plumbing or electrical system malfunctioned. If granted the chance and approval by the council, the Cowing Alternative School Program would be housed at Coburn since that school is also becoming obsolete due to its age and wear.
In other action, the council re-appointed Paul Mantoni to another term on the Park & Recreation Commission, set to expire Jan. 1, 2017.