CLARKSBURG - There's only one science room at the Clarksburg Elementary School.

Art, music and Spanish classes are all conducted in the building's last "spare" room.

Closets are converted into everything from the nurse's office to a student work space.

"Everyone here is sharing space," Principal Linda Reardon said. "And we really have run out of space."

During a recent tour of the building, Reardon pointed out the myriad space issues that students and staff at the aging school have been dealing with.

Reardon, along with Northern Berkshire School Union Superintendent Jon Lev, are looking to the state's School Building Authority for help. District officials hope to submit a Statement of Interest - the first step in being considered for some type of building project - sometime this spring. Since 2006, the district has made numerous unsuccessful attempts to expand.

"Last year was when we really put a lot of time, energy and effort into redoing [the SOI]," Lev said.

The main school building on West Cross Road was originally constructed in 1952 and was joined by a two-story addition in 1966 and a single- story, modular wing in 1978. Today, the 25,423- squarefoot building houses roughly 180 students, though the MSBA recommends a total square footage of about 31,000 for the number of students.

The district submitted a Statement of Interest - a request to be considered for a building project - last April, but was not accepted into the program.

"They did come out to talk to us and tour the school," Lev said. "But they get 300 applicants [each year], ... They have to look at places in the worst shape or condition."

Both Reardon and Lev noted the school's high standardized test scores and high demand for school choice. But the school's old construction is hindering the programming, they said.

"Back then, kids on a different level would be moved to a separate room," Lev said. " Now there's a move to include them, and so you have more differentiated instruction."

Special education resources are together in one room, Reardon said. Title I services and Occupation Therapy/ Physical Therapy are also in small services that make the programming difficult.

The school's only science room lacks gas hookups and other features common in newer schools, Lev said.

The school's one computer lab only has 15 computers, Reardon said, and the school's wireless infrastructure is patchwork and needs to be updated.

"The magic number is seven," she said. "If any more laptops than that are connected, everything crashes."

Another issue is the school's combined cafeteria, gymnasium and auditorium that is part of the 1966 addition.

"The problem is you tie up the room with lunch for two hours a day to serve the whole building," Reardon said. "You can't have a physical education class in here during those times. For scheduling, it becomes very difficult."

The room's capacity also makes it impossible to hold most events at night, Reardon said.

Residents have called for establishing a preschool, but without room in the school, officials are exploring using a room in Town Hall.

The lack of an elevator also raises accessibility issues, Reardon said, and there's no way for a handicapped person to get from the main school into the gymnasium without going outside.

In addition, studies have found asbestos present in the school, and none of the three sections are equipped with a sprinkler system.

Stabilization funds have been used to keep the building updated.

"Do we have a roof that's leaking buckets? No," Reardon said. " We've tried to address some of these issues as they pop up."


What's next ...

  • School officials will update the Statement of Interest for submission by April 11 to be considered for the MSBA's eligibility phase this fall.
  • If accepted, the district would have 270 days to show it can fund a capital project and could then be invited into the feasibility study phase. 
  • The feasibility study has a 55 percent base reimbursement rate and would need to be funded by Town Meeting. The phase could take 18 months, includes the hiring of an owner project manager and architect, and would determine whether the district should renovate or rebuild the school.
  • The district would then move to the design phase and need to secure financial support from the town for the building project.