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Rowe breaks ground for new school

Recorder/Paul Franz
The groundbreaking for the new Rowe Elementary School, to be built on the same land as the previous school, was attended by students and town and school officials on Tuesday.

Recorder/Paul Franz The groundbreaking for the new Rowe Elementary School, to be built on the same land as the previous school, was attended by students and town and school officials on Tuesday.

ROWE ­­— Smiles and shovels abounded Tuesday afternoon, as nearly everyone “dug-in” during a groundbreaking for the new $6.9 million Rowe Elementary School.

Excited schoolchildren, out an hour early from their classrooms in the Hawlemont school building, gathered on the hilltop where their old school stood, along with parents, teachers, School Committee and school building committee members.

Brandishing plastic toy shovels with stickers that read “Rowe Elementary School Groundbreaking 2013,” children lined up to dig into soft loam mounded for the occasion.

Then the adults followed, wearing hard hats and carrying shiny new metal shovels. Among these adults were the superintendent, principal and architect.

“It’s all for you and for the kids that follow you,” Selectman Noel Abbott said to the children. “The school is the heart of a community, because it embodies all its wishes, dreams and hopes. ... The old saying is, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ Even though you are one little child, with one family, every one of us is committed to watching out for you. We have made a statement that says we value you.”

Comparing the school to a rising phoenix, Abbott continued: “A year ago, there were ashes here and now something is arising. May you be blessed by it.”

Superintendent Michael Buoniconti, who won’t be representing the Rowe School District after next June, congratulated the children. “A school needs to be a place where children feel cherished and loved,” he said. “I trust that this building will be a place where you can look forward to learning, good friends and many happy times.”

The children sang a new song they had just learned, with the refrain: “We are building a school together.” They also ended the ceremonial talks with an enthusiastic rendition of “This school is my school, this school is your school,” to the tune of “This Land is Your Land.”

Building Project Manager Daniel Pallotta told the group that construction will start next week.

“We want you to watch outside the fence,” he told the children. “We are going to send out pictures (of construction) to your website.”

Referring to the town’s hopes of having the school ready to occupy by next autumn, Pallotta told the kids to “say a prayer there is no snow this winter.”

Principal Bill Knittle recalled that it has only been a year and two months since the Aug. 4, 2012, lightning-strike fire destroyed the old elementary school. “But there were many things over the past year that have inspired me,” he said.

One was a comment from Rowe teacher Janice Lapointe, who, upon hearing news about the school fire, told Knittle, “Just get us some crayons and paper, and we’ll teach them.”

Another, he said was the coming together of the Rowe and Hawlemont communities, to help Rowe relocate into classroom space at Hawlemont just five days before school started.

According to architect Chip Greenberg, the new school will have the same space as the old building, but a new footprint, with all the classroom windows facing south, with views of the trees and glimpses of Pelham Lake. This will provide more sun exposure in the winter than the old school, where the parking lot had the best southern exposure. The new parking lot and main entrance will be to the north of the school building.

According to School Building Chairwoman Susan Zavotka, some of the bricks from the old building have been salvaged and will be made into something for the new school grounds, such as a walkway or garden wall.

The new building is to be paid for with insurance proceeds from the school fire.

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

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