Photo Gallery | Colegrove Park Elementary School opening ceremony
NORTH ADAMS — It was a tough project.
But Massachusetts School Building Authority Executive Director Jack McCarthy commended North Adams for working past a slew of obstacles to renovate the former Silvio O. Conte Middle School into the new Colegrove Park Elementary School.
"You really learn a lot about a district and the people in a district when you have a project that's tough," McCarthy said. "That's when you find out who are the pretenders and who is the real deal."
McCarthy joined state and local officials in celebrating an official ribbon cutting of Colegrove Park Elementary in its gymnasium on Monday afternoon.
The result of a $30 million project, funded 80 percent by the state with the rest by a voter-approved city loan, the new school opened on Jan. 4.
Mayor Richard Alcombright, who was commended by McCarthy for being a persistent advocate of the project, reflected on watching the renovation come together, but noted still something missing until students fill the school.
"You guys are what this is all about, and when I walked in here now and I see the students, we know it's a school; we know it's your home," Alcombright said.
He said the project tested the city's resolve.
"So many of our residents rallied to make this dream a reality," he said.
Superintendent James Montepare said the renovation was a "long journey," but that he is "grateful we ended up with such a beautiful project.
"This is not just any building project ... this is a special building project because saving this school is, to me, saving the seat of education in the city of North Adams," Montepare said, referencing the school's history as the Drury Academy, Drury High School and Silvio O. Conte Middle School.
The opening of Colegrove Park will be Montepare's last as the district's leader; he announced his retirement earlier this month, a fact not lost on his peers onstage.
"[Montepare is] one of the best people on the planet," Alcombright said.
Cariddi commended the School Building Authority for being an "efficient and hardworking" agency that cares for all of the young people and education in the commonwealth.
"Just taking a few minutes to tour this building, and having my memories mesh with the new surroundings, has been incredible," said Cariddi, who was a student during one of the building's previous lives.
Downing said legislators were able to work with the state to secure the funding because they knew North Adams would make the most out of those dollars.
"This community deserves this building," Downing said.
Principal Shelley Fachini left the hundreds of students packed into the gym with a message: "You don't need to leave North Adams to become what you want to become."