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Rowe School going up

Fundraiser started for furnishings

Rapid progress is being made on building the Rowe Elementary School, which is expected to open in August. Submitted photo.

Rapid progress is being made on building the Rowe Elementary School, which is expected to open in August. Submitted photo.

ROWE — While the $6.9 million Rowe Elementary School is under construction, a capital campaign is also underway to help furnish the new school and pay for items needed for the school library, for technology, the arts, the school playground and for physical education courses.

The original school building was struck by lightning and destroyed by fire in August 2012, but the fundraiser is for items not covered by the town’s insurance payments, said Susan Samoriski, executive director of the Mary Lyon Foundation, which raises money for education for nine West County towns.

“This is on the heels of six other highly successful capital campaigns for all the other schools in our district,” said Samoriski, referring to Mohawk and Hawlemont schools.

“The Friends of Rowe made a presentation to the board of directors of the Mary Lyon Foundation, and the board voted unanimously to support this. We have supported six other capital campaigns, and felt it was right that we support this campaign,” she said.

There is no specific target for the drive at present.

Since the fire, Rowe School has been housed in an unused wing of the Hawlemont Regional School building. However, Rowe is on the verge of ending the shared superintendent arrangement it has had with the Mohawk and Hawlemont regional school districts for at least 30 years. The Rowe School Committee is currently negotiating with the North Berkshire School Union to share that elementary school union’s superintendent and administrative staff. However, Rowe students will still be going to Mohawk through a tuition agreement.

The destructive school fire came at a time of declining enrollment for the Mohawk and Hawlemont school districts, and some people both within Rowe and in the other school districts have questioned the need for building a new school when classroom space is available in other school buildings. Since Heath built its own school in 1995, Rowe has drawn at least one-third of its students through the School Choice initiative; many of those School Choice students have come from the other Mohawk/Hawlemont towns. However many in Rowe, a town of roughly 400 people, felt that the school “was the heart of the town” and wanted to keep that tradition.

The Rowe School Building Committee has promised townspeople the school would be paid for entirely by insurance proceeds. However, about $100,000 of the insurance proceeds has had to be set aside in case the old septic system fails after the new school is built.

When asked if Rowe’s administrative departure from the other local school districts has any bearing on the Foundation’s relationship to Rowe, Samoriski replied, “Our nine-town target area includes Rowe, regardless of what school district they’re in. Our concern is for the children, and we will continue to support their children’s education.”

Samoriski said construction workers are working on the building “night and day.”

“It will be magnificent,” she said. “The insurance will cover the bricks and mortar, but it will not cover some of the other things. They are developing a wish-list of items,” she said, which includes small appliances.

Samoriski noted that there was an outpouring of West County donations, including library books and supplies for the Rowe School, to help replace what was lost in the fire. She said those items “are cherished and will be going with the children to the new schools.”

Besides collecting donations for the new school, Samoriski said the Mary Lyon Foundation is also looking for potential grant sources for Rowe.

The school is expected to open this August, and the money raised will help to buy: library books and subscriptions, tumbling mats, art supplies, a sand box, play structure, SmartBoards, laptops, a back stage curtain, projection screen, sound system, play structures and appliances for the small project/community room.

Janet Cowie chairs the Friends of the Rowe School, and she may be reached at:

info@roweschoolcapitalcampaign.com

Donations may be sent to the Mary Lyon Education Foundation with “Rowe School” in the memo line and sent to: Mary Lyon Foundation, P.O. Box 184, Shelburne Falls MA 01370.

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

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