State awards Orange $33M grant for elementary school

  • Here is what the new Fisher Hill Elementary School would look like with a three-story addition built onto its northern side. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE

  • Fisher Hill Elementary School in Orange. Staff FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Fisher Hill Elementary School in Orange. Staff FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Orange’s Dexter Park Innovation School, one of its two elementary schools. Staff FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/16/2020 4:46:22 PM
Modified: 4/16/2020 4:46:12 PM

ORANGE — The Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District can expect a $33 million state grant to replace the Dexter Park Innovation School with an addition at Fisher Hill Elementary School that will serve students in preschool through sixth grade, the Massachusetts School Building Authority announced Wednesday.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) board of directors voted to approve a grant of up to $33,144,996 for the project, according to State Treasurer and MSBA Chair Deborah B. Goldberg and MSBA Executive Director John K. McCarthy.

The proposed project would create 97,115 square feet of educational space and address deficiencies the school district identified in its statement of interest. All major mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and structural issues would be resolved, according to the building authority.

“Upon completion, this project will provide a 21st-century learning environment for elementary school students in Orange,” Goldberg said in a statement. “Our goal is to create the best space to deliver the district’s educational commitments and goals.”

“Orange students will soon have a beautiful renovated space, which will undoubtedly enhance and improve their ability to excel in the classroom,” McCarthy said.

The need to replace or repair the 1950s-built Dexter Park has been apparent since at least 2006, when the MSBA designated it one of nine Category 4 school buildings in the state, due to problems with the school’s boiler and heating system, a leaking roof and opaque windows, as well as overcrowding.

The proposed addition and renovation has been designed working with school administrators and their education plan. Putting students in one building has been viewed favorably by educators as a way to conserve resources.

Also, the idea of a central “innovation hub” — with a library, media center, arts and science rooms and a patio for outdoor learning — has been touted for its versatility and visibility within the school. A strict security layout for those entering the building and another access drive to allow smoother traffic and access for firetrucks have also been planned in the design.

Attempts to contact school Superintendent Tari Thomas for comment were unsuccessful Thursday.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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