PITTSFIELD -- School officials and committee members this week praised the reaction of staff members, emergency responders and the community in the wake of a double-fatal accident Jan. 14 near the front entrance of Pittsfield High School.

"It was a day we will probably never forget at Pittsfield High School," Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless told School Committee members. "We join with many others in the city in expressing sadness for this loss."

On Jan. 14 at around 2:50 p.m., two men received fatal injuries after their vehicle, traveling at a high rate of speed, according to police, exited Second Street and crossed East Street before crashing into a tree and a cement wall in front of the high school. The crash claimed the lives of the car’s occupants, Ernest Duck Jr., 37, and Tariq Salley, 34, both of Pittsfield.

McCandless also said he’s grateful for the staff members who immediately responded to the scene and those who returned to the school to offer assistance. He also praised the "incredibly quick and professional" response of emergency personal who tended to the victims and secured the crash scene.

Afterward, the entire community seemed to come together in a time of sadness, said committee Chairwoman Katherine Yon. "It was a horrific accident," she said, adding that "many people were visibly shaken."

Yon thanked the emergency responders and city officials, Principal Matt Bishop and the PHS staff, including school nurses, educators and other staff members, who were quickly at the scene. There was "a coming together of the community" that day and in the days that followed, she said.

McCandless also updated the committee on the hiring last week of a Waltham firm as project designer for a new or renovated Taconic High School. The School Building Needs Commission is scheduled to meet with representatives of the firm, Drummey, Rosane, Anderson Inc., on Monday at 5:15 p.m. at PHS, he said.

The firm, which will conduct a feasibility study of the school system’s building options for Taconic and produce design alternatives, is planning for "a vibrant community experience" in gathering input on what residents believe the school should include. The feasibility stage of the project could be completed during 2014.

Both the study and the school project itself are expected to receive 78 to 80 percent state funding.

McCandless added that the firm’s project liaison to the school system is Scot Woodin, himself a graduate of Taconic High.

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