Photo Gallery | Colegrove Park Elementary School opens in North Adams
NORTH ADAMS — Colegrove Park Elementary School is "back in business," as third grade teacher Lori Parrino put it after the students' first full day.
After about four years of vacancy in the 19th century structure and more than a year of an extensive $30 million renovation project, about 340 elementary school students and about 80 faculty and staff plunged into the first day of school at the very new looking building.
"It went way better than I anticipated," said Shelley Fachini, principal at Colegrove Park. She noted that she spent much of the night before wondering about the unknowns of moving into a new school. "So I was waiting for something to happen, but nothing major went wrong. It was very nice."
The 78,000-square-foot school, which has served as Drury Academy, Drury High School and Conte Middle School, was closed in 2010 and its middle school students moved to Drury High School.
The facility has a wireless data network, built-in technology to aid the hearing impaired, the latest in insulation, energy-efficient windows, motion sensors on the light switches, a modern security system, a new heating and cooling system, and spectacular views of much of North Adams.
The past was also preserved: Details from the former Drury High School — exterior brick walls, columns, stained glass windows and century-old wood floors — add to the effect of the giant historic photos from the school's and the community's history hanging on the walls.
While having the past so readily represented is a wonderful feature, Fachini said, the two computer labs and the computer pods in each classroom add to the school's ability to help young students move into the digital age.
"We're preparing kids for the workplace of the future, not the past," she said.
Now that the first full day is passed, Fachini said the only logistical issue is the traffic flow at the end of the school day.
Many parents tend to show up before school gets out and wait for their children, but the school loads the buses first, before any parents can park at the school. So if the parents could come to the school at 3 p.m., the buses will have left soon after and the parents' cars would then be able to pull into the parking lot to pick up their children.
"It would make life so much easier for them," Fachini said.
The reaction of the students to the new school was overwhelmingly positive, she added.
"Most of the kids were awestruck," Fachini said.
Third grade teacher Lori Parrino, said her students seemed to like the school, and were a bit chatty as the day wore on — likely a reaction to the excitement of the first day in a new facility.
"But overall they liked it, eased right into it," she said. "Nobody had any concerns at all."
North Adams Mayor Dick Alcombright posted to his Facebook page that the first day of the new school went well.
"Great first day at Colegrove Park Elementary School," he wrote. "Thanks so much to the teachers and staff who have been working very hard the past couple of weeks to transform it from a renovated building back to a 'school.' All the classrooms looked great this morning in anticipation of the kids' arrival. The faces on the students this morning ranging from cautious to very excited were priceless and seeing them all there really made this entire school building journey VERY worthwhile."