|Clarksburg Still Hoping for State Funds Toward School Repairs|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff |
04:27PM / Monday, June 17, 2019
|One project will be the repairs or replacement of the lift that accesses the upper level where the middle school classrooms are located. |
Cindy Brule, left, was elected secretary and Laura Wood as chairman of the School Committee. Eric Denette, elected at the annual town election, was absent.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Officials are still hoping that funding will come through to help with repairs at Clarksburg School.
The town's state officials have not been optimistic about the chances of the governor releasing a $500,000 earmark placed in a bond by state Sen. Adam Hinds to redo the school's roof — even with the town meeting's passage of a $1 million borrowing to help address building issues.
"I'm kind of disappointed that our local officials and people have sort of given up and even our state rep," said Robert Norcross, one of the leads of the volunteer renovation committee trying to undertake repairs at the school. "I think we could have gotten this."
However, he had been informed by Hinds' office that the money is in a five-year plan and while it's too late to get it into next year's budget there will be supplemental budgets and that they will continue to fight for.
Norcross' information came at the renovation committee meeting immediately following the School Committee's meeting on June 6. The volunteer group has been attempting to make small-scale renovations to the 60-year-old building following the defeat of a $19 million renovation and addition project in 2017.
School and town officials have reached out the state in hopes of getting some funding to do more for the building but those efforts have so far been unsuccessful. The Massachusetts School Building Authority had determined that minor repairs would not bring the school up to contemporary educational standards and had authorized about $12 million toward the renovation project that voters rejected.
More recently, Patrick Carnevale from Gov. Charlie Baker's Western Mass office had toured the school along with Hinds' staff. Norcross said he had spoken to Carnevale, who referred to the MSBA as having a lot of say in where school building money goes.
"They still feel that they're putting money into a problem building," he said. "Somehow we need to get them a letter or some correspondence, saying that the school is not crumbling."
Principal Tara Barnes questioned why the MSBA would be convinced by letters stating the building was sound.
"They have tons of documentation that they received from this whole study," she said. "So our opinion about this building? I'm not sure how we sway them to think differently when they have binders of engineer documents and all that from the feasibility study."
Superintendent John Franzoni thought the group should be focusing on priorities and next steps. Public Consulting Group, hired to review the options for merging the school district with Stamford, Vt.'s school, had recommended both communities come up with capital plans, he noted.
"The fact that they [MSBA] were going to allow us to do a renovation and a complete rebuild, so they understand that there's a good solid base here but there is work to be done," Franzoni said. "So I just want make sure we're focusing our efforts on what our best plan is going forward."
He agreed with Norcross that they should be showing progress on repairs and continue to communicate with the state and elected officials about the school's needs. Voters' approval of the infrastructure borrowing was a good state, he said, and officials are very interested in the proposed merger with Stamford.
"I've been saying, we've all been saying, we have got to work together," Franzoni said. "It's not the school, town, it's together, we're all together. And so that has to be our mindset going forward."
The priorities, they decided, were Americans With Disabilities compliance, replacing the boilers, and addressing asbestos to start. Green Communities grant funds and most of the balance of the school's stabilization account (used for the MSBA feasibility study) are being used to replace the furnaces this summer. Select Board Chairman Ronald Boucher said the board would be accepting a bid on the boilers on June 19 and that access to the $1 million was in process.
Norcross thought it would be prudent to hold of on the roof for at least this year, holding out hope the $500,000 earmark will still come through.
In School Committee business, Laura Wood was elected president and Cynthia Brule as secretary.
• The School Committee approved the requests of two families for their children to continue attending Clarksburg School as school choice although they have moved out of town. The committee also approved school choice in second grade (two), third grade (one, with another still open), fourth grade (one), fifth grade (two) and sixth grade (two).
The two second-grade slots and a fourth grade slot will be filled existing requests.
• Barnes said there are still spots left for the six-week summer camp that will be held at Gabriel Abbott School in Florida this year. The school will also offer a week of daycare before and after to help cover gaps between the end and start of school.
• Clarksburg is planning to hire a dean of students who will also do duty as an inclusion specialist and North Berkshire School Union a certified occupational therapist assistant. A post at Clarksburg for a cafeteria supervisor has also been posted.