Next chapter for Greenfield High School as new classroom block to open Sept. 2

  • The entrance to the new Greenfield High School.  Recorder/Paul Franz
  • Principal Donna Woodcock in the front lobby of the new high school building. Recorder/Paul Franz
  • Lecture hall in new GHS. Recorder/Paul Franz
  • Library at the new GHS building.  Recorder/Paul Franz
  • Hallway at new GHS building. Recorder/Paul Franz

GREENFIELD — Off Barr Avenue, a two-story, state-of-the-art building stands waiting. It looms over an entry courtyard reminiscent of a New England college campus. Inside, gleaming, untouched art spaces for pottery and painting, and wings for math and history, and a large library await. Inside, overlooking the front lobby, the words “SCHOLARSHIP,” “LOYALTY” and “HONOR” greet visitors.

The first part of the town’s new $66 million high school will officially open on Sept. 2 on the first day of school for 500 Greenfield High School students.

It was about 16 months ago the town broke ground for the nearly three-year project. Now that the main classroom block is complete, students will move from old classrooms to the new, and in the coming year, older sections will be razed and replaced, and the current auditorium will be refurbished and tied into the new construction.

With new technology and green innovations, the new classroom building is a far cry from its outdated 56-year-old predecessor.

Eighty-percent of the construction cost, or $42 million, is paid for through state funds.

The new building is intended as a 50-year building, said Clerk of the Works Jeff Dome, who reports to Construction Monitoring Services, the firm hired by Greenfield to manage the project and look out for the town’s interests.

The high school is outfitted with modern technology to save energy. The lighting automatically adjusts in the classrooms to harvest the daylight and cut down on electricity use, Dome said. Occupancy light sensors turn on only when a person enters a room.

The new facility is also built under Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards for green buildings. Such innovations include a rain garden in the front courtyard that catches rain water from the school roof and funnels it back into the ground for conservation.

The classroom and hallway floors are colorfully decorated orange, blue and green. The floor is made out of marmoleum, a natural linoleum designed to be highly durable, nontoxic and anti-microbial.

The new building has space for 585 students. The school is projected to reach that capacity in the next few years based on the size of the current elementary school classes, Greenfield High School Principal Donna Woodcock said.

Administrative offices will be located off the main lobby.

Students will find their math classes, resource rooms and computer labs on the first floor. The 8th Grade Academy will have its own wing on the first floor.

On the second floor, social studies, English and foreign language classes will meet, and a new library will serve as the focal point. The circular library creates a college-like atmosphere with its single teaching room and separate spaces for books, technology and writing.

Also, on the second floor, two new art rooms will be located. One room is reserved for 3D art like sculpture and pottery. The classroom has two kilns for pottery. The second art room is reserved for 2D art like drawing and painting.

In the old building, there was only one art room.

More to go

While the project has passed its first phase, there are two additional phases this year.

Phase 2 involves building a south side wing for gym, music, science and special education spaces.

The old school’s gymnasium, cafeteria and kitchen will be used during the fall before activities are shifted into the temporary facilities for the spring and work begins on their replacements.

At that time, the cafeteria will go offline and all lunches will be made at the middle school and delivered to the high school.

During the spring, a temporary athletic area will be created in the north section of the old building to serve as the gym, which will also close in the second half of the year.

This phase of the project will be finished by next summer.

A temporary corridor will connect the new building with the old one while it is still in use.

Traffic will enter via Barr Avenue and a parking lot to the west side of the school will be available for faculty.

“Kids will see, from time to time, an occasional worker, but it will be minimal,” said Dome. “Kids will have a normal experience at school.”

The last section to be completed is the auditorium, which will be renovated and closed throughout the 2014-2015 school year.

By September 2015, the new school will be completed and occupied. The only remaining work at that point will be the grounds and athletic fields.

Over the past few weeks, administrative staff and guidance offices have moved into the building to prepare for the new school year.

The school year for all Greenfield Public Schools is starting after Labor Day this year to give the construction crew extra time to finish up odds and ends, Woodcock said.

In the last few weeks of August, hundreds of different furnishings from the desks to the books to the chairs will be moved, Dome said.

As students enter the building this year, they can expect little impact to their daily school lives, Woodcock said.

The biggest impact will be moving from one building to the other, but Woodock said the four-minute passing time is sufficient for students to get to class on time.

There will be no changes to the bus schedule or drop-off area, which will be in front of the school, Woodcock said.

“This project has had very little impact on how we do things,” Woodcock said.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268 On Twitter, follow @RecorderKatMcK

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