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Rowe to offer previews of proposed school

ROWE — The School Building Committee wants the town to build a new Rowe School within the budget provided by insurance proceeds for the school building destroyed last summer by fire.

Today, the School Building Committee hosts the first of three public information meetings on building plans and the proposal for a new Rowe School, with a 1 p.m. presentation at the Gracy House, the town’s Senior Center.

The second meeting is Saturday, at 10 a.m., at the Rowe Historical Society/Kemp-McCarthy Museum, and the final public information meeting will be held on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Rowe Conference Center.

The proposed Rowe Elementary School building would house up to 100 pupils, and was developed to stay within the town’s $6.9 million insurance allotment, says School Building Committee Chairwoman Susan Zavotka.

“Basically, we plan to use every bit of the insurance proceeds, but we’re not going above that,” she said. “That was our goal from the beginning.”

In a School Building Committee survey this winter, about 40 percent of residents said they would support building a new school if it didn’t cost more than the town’s insurance money could provide.

At a special town meeting in January, residents voted 100-59 to spend $250,000 of its insurance proceeds to hire an architect, to create design plans and cost estimates for a new school building, comparable to the one that was destroyed by a lightning strike fire in August.

Zavotka said asbestos abatement in the old school building began this week, and demolition work is expected to continue through July. If the town votes to build a new school at the May 21 meeting, the hope is to get construction bids by late summer. She said she would like to see construction begin in September, “so that we could be moving in by the end of August 2014.”

The school building is roughly 21,000 square feet and would include areas for public use, just like the old school building did.

If no building were placed on the site, the town’s full insurance settlement would be $3,784,064, according to the minutes of an April 22 School Building Committee meeting.

On May 21, the town will hold a special town meeting at 6:30 p.m., at the Fire Station, to vote on whether or not to move forward in rebuilding the school in this tax-rich town of nearly 400 residents and 36 elementary students.

At January’s special town meeting, impassioned arguments were presented both for and against rebuilding the elementary school, which has been a popular recipient of School Choice students from surrounding hilltowns since the 1990s. At least one-third of the students enrolled at Rowe have been School Choice children.

Those in favor of rebuilding the school said rebuilding it would give the town more local control over the quality of education and would help to attract young families to this small community, which indirectly affects the market value of homes.

Those opposed felt the cost was too high, given the low number of children who live in town, the number of older residents on fixed incomes, and the fact that nearby Mohawk Trail Regional School District schools are struggling with enrollment decreases and half-full school buildings.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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