Greenfield Center School gets green light for new $10.5M building

  • An aerial photo of the proposed site of the new Center School at 741 and 743 Bernardston Road in Greenfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/BANWELL ASSOCIATES

  • An architect’s rendition of the new Center School at 741 and 743 Bernardston Road in Greenfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/BANWELL ASSOCIATES

Staff Writer
Published: 2/25/2020 10:20:55 PM

GREENFIELD — The Greenfield Center School will be moving from one side of the city to the other, with a new building at 741 and 743 Bernardston Road.

The proposed building will be a single-story, 26,560-square-foot school with a soccer field and a basketball court, according to the site plan presented to the Planning Board last week.

The Planning Board unanimously approved the private school’s site plan, which is proposed to begin construction as early as spring, according to Greenfield Department of Planning and Development Director Eric Twarog.

The project will cost about $10.5 million, said Greenfield Center School Head of School Isabel “Charlie” Spencer. Spencer added that about $6.25 million has already been raised by the school.

The school, which serves students in preschool through eighth grade, hopes to move into the building in the summer of 2021.

One reason for the project is that the current location at 71 Montague City Road is no longer an adequate location, Spencer said.

“It’s largely that, yes, we’ve been outgrowing the small campus we have, which is about 2 acres,” Spencer said. “We essentially use property that surrounds the campus, which is not ours to expand on. There is also the fact that Montague City Road is an industrial area. … It’s not an ideal location. The new location more completely meets the needs of small children.”

In addition to the school having some industrial neighbors, Spencer said the General Pierce Bridge construction project — which has limited the traffic to alternating one lane and is slated to close the bridge from summer 2021 to summer 2024 — has also impacted families in the area, adding an extra 10 to 15 minutes to commutes to and from school.

Spencer said the needs of students also include spending one to three hours outside, and with the new one-story building, many of the classrooms will have access to the outdoors.

There will also be an all-purpose room in addition to classrooms, according to Rachel Loeffler of Berkshire Design Group, a landscape architect who presented the site plan to the Planning Board last week.

“(The) site aligned with the educational value and aspirations. The project site ... has a lot of wetlands, woods, streams and meadows, which are seen as an amenity for the schools,” Loeffler explained. “When we started looking at different options for developing the site, we realized pretty quickly we need to find the flattest area on the site, so we would minimize the footprint of disturbance and keep as many woods and wetlands as possible.”

In an effort to minimize the impact of the project, a salamander crossing was created.

“Our wetland scientist — when we went back to the site — said he saw eggs, even though it wasn’t a certified vernal pool,” Loeffler said. “Talking to him, we were worried about salamanders that might be coming from the northeast part of the site trying to work their way down to that pool. We pulled up a lot of journal articles about crossings … and we were able to take that and use it.”

She said the school building will have a lot of natural light and materials.

A building, located where the access road will come onto the site, will be demolished as part of the project, Loeffler added. The majority of the site is away from the road.

The next steps for the project include getting construction-level plans, building permits and, if needed, an access permit through the state Department of Transportation, according to Twarog.

“We’re hoping to continue to be a good resource for families in Greenfield,” Spencer said. “We’re also looking for partners and sponsors to be able to get to our fundraising goal.”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at
or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.


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