Athol Community Elementary on schedule for June completion

Recorder Staff
Last modified: 2/23/2016 8:25:53 AM
ATHOL — “I can’t wait for our kids to see this,” said Jan Williams, principal of the Riverbend and Sanders Street elementary schools, touring the new Athol Community Elementary School under construction off Pleasant Street.

With a June completion in sight, Athol Royalston Regional School District officials toured the unfinished school Saturday morning.

When the new school opens in the fall, it will be the sole school for all Athol elementary students, prekindergarten through fourth grade. The Pleasant Street, Riverbend and Sanders Street schools will close. As principal of two current schools, Williams said some of the things the new school will offer include a gym, a cafeteria, and electrical wires inside the walls, rather than out.

“Those two schools are over 100 years old. And they have a lot of tradition to them, they’re pretty cool, but when you look at this? Our kids are going to be overwhelmed when they walk in here,” Williams said.

Williams and Assistant Superintendent Steven Meyer said the elementary school consolidation means staff can be used more efficiently, and the new space should increase parent engagement.

“This place is awesome. It’s just going to allow us to change the way we do everything,” Meyer said. That includes the ability to better group students based on their needs, share staff and programs and increase parent engagement with little changes like holding elementary concerts in the elementary instead of the high school.

Williams said probably half her students don’t even have enough heat at home, and they don’t know what they’re missing in a school.

Members of the building committee toured the space with the district’s project manager, a representative of Mount Vernon Architects and of general contractor Fontaine Bros. Inc. of Springfield. Joel Kent, Fontaine’s assistant project manager, said work started in December of last year, when there was plenty of snow to get in the way.

Building Committee chair Karen McNiff said the project is on time and on budget, with a June 14 projected substantial completion date for the $43.9 million project. Athol is responsible for $16.1 million, with the Mass. School Building Authority to reimburse the remainder.

School Committee Chairwoman Nancy Melbourne said the school so far is beautiful, and well worth the fight.

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