School project advances

Sunday, Jan. 31
HANCOCK -- Hancock Elementary School is now a step closer in securing state school building funds for energy efficiency upgrades.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) Board voted last week to move the Hancock project into a "feasibility study phase." This means town, school and MSBA officials will now work together to study potential solutions to the problems identified in the school's request for improvements.

School Superintendent William Ballen said he was "thrilled" to see the project moving forward.

Last year the school district and town began putting together a list of needs of the 50-year-old building and applied for a total of $350,000 in MSBA grants and federal stimulus funding.

The proposal included the replacement of windows, roof insulation, dropping the school's ceiling to install duct work for more efficient heating, and the installation of energy-efficient lighting. Officials also hope to make plans to replace the school's boilers.

In a press release, MSBA Chairman and state Treasurer Tim Cahill said the feasibility study will help the board "determine the most appropriate, cost effective solution" to meet the school's needs.

Those needs can't be filled soon enough. On Tuesday, the school had to close after a boiler burned out.

In the meantime, the school has received support from neighboring Patriot Resorts and Vacation Village, and has begun the window replacement portion of the project "in kindness." The town will also commit approximately $250,000 toward improvements.

"Any building improvements are wonderful to have in the school. It's a building that's not only important to the school children, but also to the town. There's nowhere else to meet," said Hancock Principal Sarah Madden.

State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, and Rep. Denis Guyer, D-Dalton, both advocated the project at the state level.

"There aren't too many schools in my district that embody the community school spirit like Hancock does. This collaboration between local and state officials will hopefully bring these important renovations to fruition, allowing the town to save on energy costs, and ensuring the highest quality facilities possible for the children of Hancock," said Guyer.

School Superintendent Ballen said that state support for the project would also mean a commitment to the Hancock school's master plan to further develop the building's capacity as a school and a community center.

"By doing so, [the state] is making a commitment to this school to keep it open," he said.

MSBA Executive Director Katherine Craven is heading the movement for MSBA to collaborate with municipalities to equitably invest up to $2.5 billion in schools across the commonwealth.

"We look forward to continuing our due diligence to determine what the best plan of action is moving forward," she said.


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