LENOX — After an extended shutdown required by an asbestos-cleanup project, the Lenox Memorial Middle and High School building reopened Tuesday with full, all-day classroom learning for all grades.
The school had been operating with a hybrid model until it was closed March 16, after a fierce windstorm caused small quantities of debris containing the fire-retardant substance to fall from the ceiling into a number of classrooms and offices, as well as part of the cafeteria.
Remote-only education continued until this week, when school officials got the all-clear after completion of the work by Gem Environmental of North Adams. EcoGenesis Corp., a Pittsfield environmental consultant, tested the air Sunday and gave an all-clear.
By choice, 81 out of 438 students enrolled in grades 6 to 12, or about 18 percent, will continue to learn remotely.
“Obviously, this has been a very disrupted early spring,” interim Superintendent William Cameron acknowledged at a School Committee briefing Monday night. He reported that faculty and staff returned earlier that day to prepare classrooms for the return of students.
Involvement by the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards required a much broader scope of work than originally anticipated, he said.
The project was accomplished in double shifts, Cameron added, as he praised Gem and EcoGenesis for meeting Tuesday’s reopening target, a day ahead of the state mandate for all middle schools to resume full-time, in-person learning. The Lenox district chose to include high school students in the reopening timetable.
Cameron praised the “outstanding job” by the custodial staff, working late into the night and on weekends for two weeks without a day off.
“It’s impressive to the point of being exhausting just to consider it,” he said. “We’re open not just because of the contractors, but because of the work our custodians did.” The custodial staff led by Jeffrey Ano includes Dale Armstrong, Michael Bohin, Dominic Boschetti, Nicholas Saldarini and Peydon Twing.
School Committee Chairman Robert Vaughan voiced a shout-out to technology specialists Mike Jackson and Tim Lufkin for reinstalling equipment enabling the restoration of remote learning in sync with classroom instruction.
Other developments at Monday night’s meeting:
• School administrators at the middle/high school and Morris Elementary School are planning summer programs to close any learning gaps resulting from “the topsy-turvy school year,” Cameron said, and “the multiple media by which students have been educated this year.”
The programs would accommodate up to 80 elementary students. English Language Arts and math will be offered at the middle and high school for remediation and preparation for accelerated coursework. Federal grant money is in place, Cameron noted, and enough teachers will be available.
• The committee formally approved the 2021-26 Strategic Plan for presentation to the community at 7 p.m. Thursday, via a Zoom link at tinyurl.com/u3xuwh2f. The document is posted on the Lenox school district website, lenoxps.org.
• The School Committee approved a Sept. 2 starting date for the 2021-22 school year, ending June 15 unless snow days require an extension.
• Cameron, who became interim superintendent 18 months ago, and Vaughan saluted committee members Molly Elliot, Anne-Marie O’Brien and Francie Sorrentino, attending their final meeting since they chose not to seek reelection next month.
“I want people to understand how supportive the entire School Committee has been throughout all of this turmoil,” Cameron said, noting the help of the committee and the Lenox Education Association to keep education going. “We’re in as good a place as we are right now largely through the efforts of members of the committee,” he added.
“Thanks, Dr. Cameron, for sticking with us,” Sorrentino responded. “It’s not an easy thing to do.”
Vaughan pointed out that in Sorrentino’s 10 years on the committee, she has served under six superintendents.
“There has been no greater advocate for the students of Lenox, and no greater cheerleader for Lenox and Lenox Dale,” he said. “You’re underappreciated by some, but among those who know your commitment to family and community, and your unwavering and generous support for anyone in need, you’re enormously appreciated.”