Athol Community Elementary School to open Sept. 6

  • Athol Community Elementary School Principal Mike Leander. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • This year’s enrollment for the new Athol Community Elementary School is around 550 for pre-kindergarten through fourth grade. Above is the school courtyard. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Athol Community Elementary School Gymnasium/Cafeteria/Auditorium. A divider wall can separate the gym. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Athol Community Elementary School Vice Principal Anne Diaz. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Athol Community Elementary School Principal Mike Leander and Vice Principal Anne Diaz talk with 3rd grade teacher Heidi Heuer in her new classroom. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Athol Community Elementary School classroom. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • A covered breeze way lines the front of the Athol Community Elementary School library and media center. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Students and a parent check out the courtyard from a stairwell at the Athol Community Elementary School library and media center. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Athol Community Elementary School library and media center. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 8/29/2016 10:41:04 PM

ATHOL — Assistant Principal Anne Diaz says Athol Community Elementary School has “literally one of the coolest things ever.”

Visitors to the new school will find a parents room immediately to their right after entering the school, which is slated to open on Sept. 6. Diaz says it was the building committee’s idea to have a space that could double as a PTO meeting room and a place parents and guardians could wait for their student if they arrive early for pick-up or if there is a specific issue that needs addressing.

But the parents room is only a sample of the facilities offered at the new elementary school at 1064 Pleasant St. The two-story building has 31 classrooms, a room for physical therapy and occupational therapy (PT/OT), a gymnasium and a library/media room, among other features. Diaz said this year’s enrollment is around 550 for pre-kindergarten through fourth grade.

The classrooms are brightly lit, each with ergonomic chairs, SMART Boards and what can be described as the academic equivalent of the new car smell. Surrounded by student desks topped with stacks of books and binders and reams of paper, third-grade teacher Heidi Heuer says she loves the building, but will be more relieved when she puts away all her supplies.

“I’m excited — super excited. There’s nothing better. Nothing tops this,” she says. “Kids are excited to come back to school. I mean, they can’t wait to get in here and start learning and exploring.”

Her first-floor classroom boasts a picturesque view of the school’s playground and outdoor basketball court.

Diaz said the amount of time students spend in the PT/OT room will depend on their individualized education plans. Jeff Ferranti, director of special education, said some students will use the room two to three times a week, though it will also be used for students who require a break from the classroom.

“Some kids just get so hyped up and then they can’t control themselves,” Ferranti says. “This is usually for kids specifically who, for some reason, they just can’t move around well — muscularly they weren’t developed in a way that is good for schools.

“So the idea is to get them so they can access all the curriculum,” he continues. “I guess that’s the key term, to be able to access the curriculum.”

Diaz says the school’s music room utilizes solar tubes that use mirrors to collect sunlight and use it as natural light in the room.

An accordion-like wall can be pulled to separate the school’s gymnasium and cafeteria, which also hosts a stage for school plays and a talent show slated for the spring.

Diaz and Principal Mike Leander say ACES is the consolidation of the Pleasant Street, Sanders Street and Riverbend schools. The town loaned those school buildings to the school district for educational purposes, but the Athol-Royalston Regional School Committee voted unanimously in July to return them to the town because the district is no longer in need of them. Athol Town Manager Shaun A. Suhoski previously said Pleasant Street School will change hands on Sept. 1 (some materials are being stored there), while the town will gained ownership of the others on Aug. 1.

Athol-Royalston Regional School Superintendent Steven Meyer said the new school building cost $43,931,363, which he says is under budget so far. He says the town will be reimbursed roughly 80 percent by the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

He says the remaining work includes some final tasks, including taking inventory of supplies and equipment and making sure the new building’s technology is up and running.

“I think it looks great. We had an open house on the 17th so people could come through and I think people were really, really happy with it. They seemed pleased,” Meyer says. “It’s got a lot of colors. It’s got a lot of light and windows and all that kind of stuff. I just think it’s a really exciting opportunity.”

Leander said the first day of school would typically be in late August, though it pushed to Sept. 6 to provide enough time to get the building ready.

You can reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com
or: 413-772-0261, ext. 258
On Twitter: @DomenicPoli


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