State to partner with Clarksburg on school feasibility study
CLARKSBURG — The Massachusetts School Building Authority has agreed to partner with the town in a feasibility study that will explore potential renovations to Clarksburg Elementary School.
Efforts have been underway to address the school building's needs for about a decade, according to town officials, and after years of applying it was finally allowed into the MSBA's eligibility period earlier this year. In order for the feasibility process to move forward, the district had to show that it could financially support the study and create a school building committee, according to the MSBA.
Clarksburg was one of six school districts across the state to receive MSBA's green light Wednesday to order a feasibility study. The state will cover about 62 percent of the cost of the study.
"These feasibility studies will carefully examine all potential solutions to help us develop the most effective plan," said MSBA Treasurer Deborah Goldberg in a statement. "We look forward to partnering with the districts to move these potential projects forward."
Voters at a special town meeting last month approved a measure to spend up to $250,000 to fund a study of the school, which officials say may need to be renovated or replaced. The measure at town meeting passed by a margin of 137 to 2.
After the MSBA's most recent approval, Town Administrator Carl McKinney on Wednesday said the next step is to have the School Building Committee solicit proposals for a feasibility study from architectural firms.
"I'm curious to what comes back and how we progress," said Jeffrey Levanos, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. "There's the possibility of a new school, which a lot of people would like to see, and there's a possibility of a major redo, and the school definitely needs it."
Levanos cautioned, as he did before the special town meeting, that the allocated funds are only to assess the feasibility of a renovation or new school, and that the affordability of any future project will be important.
The school, built in 1952, currently holds about 168 students from kindergarten through eighth grade. A two-story addition was built in 1966 and another wing was added in 1978.
Among its many problems, the school's heating efficiency needs improvements, advocates have argued. It currently burns through an estimated 170,000 gallons of heating oil annually. Its classrooms are crowded, it lacks science laboratories, and needs its technology infrastructure upgraded, town and school officials have argued.
"There's many issues in the building that make it difficult, and for the future we know that if we don't do this now the building won't hold up," said Jonathan Lev, superintendent of the North Berkshire School Union, which includes Clarksburg Elementary.
Of the $250,000 appropriated at the special town meeting, $150,000 was taken from a town stabilization account and $100,000 was taken from a decade-old stabilization account that was established for the purposes of a school renovation.
The town stabilization account will be the first to be reimbursed by the state, while the renovation account would receive any leftover funds.
"The school is a very important part of Clarksburg, and we've had great success with turning out students and we want to be able to continue that," Lev said.
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