Pavilion approved for outdoor classroom, performance space at former Warwick school

Step part of plan to develop independent elementary school system

  • The entrance to the former Warwick Community School. The most recent step toward developing an independent elementary school system run out of the former school building has seen the Warwick Education Committee unanimously approve construction of a multipurpose pavilion for outdoor instruction and performances. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 12/11/2020 3:40:13 PM
Modified: 12/11/2020 3:40:00 PM

WARWICK — The most recent step toward developing an independent elementary school system run out of the former Warwick Community School has seen the Warwick Education Committee unanimously approve construction of a multipurpose pavilion to be used for outdoor instruction and performances.

According to Warwick Education Committee Vice Chair Tom Wyatt, members approved the pavilion during their meeting on Dec. 1. The Selectboard then discussed and likewise approved the pavilion on Dec. 7.

The pavilion, to be built on the school’s 25-acre grounds, will be the first structure of a planned “Environmental Education Center.” The budget for the pavilion project is $15,000. Members of the Education Committee have said this is a key step in Warwick’s plan to redesign and reopen its elementary school.

Speaking Thursday, Wyatt said the pavilion is one of three parts in the plan for developing the Environmental Education Center. Another part incorporates community gardens, which would expand on the current gardens at the school with volunteer help. The third part of the plan involved developing marked forest trails that are connected to the school yard.

“The idea is to make trails that explore different areas, which both the community and the school can use,” Wyatt said. “The pavilion will be used for outdoor education, and community use for both musical and theater performances. The hope is to have it like an amphitheater.”

The pavilion will be built at the base of a bank on the side of the school. Wyatt said those attending performances could use the slope for extended seating. The design and site planning process for the pavilion is actively underway, with the structure designed to be 20 to 40 feet in length.

According to a statement from Wyatt and the Warwick Education Committee printed in the December issue of the town newsletter, the committee and Selectboard will apply for grants to help defray the pavilion’s cost, as well as issue an appeal for donations of services, materials and money.

The Pioneer Valley Regional School District School Committee voted to close Warwick Community School in January, a decision that was later upheld by state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Jeffrey Riley.

In July, Warwick residents voted to leave the Pioneer school district “as soon as feasible.” Since then, town officials have continued to meet with district representatives to discuss the establishment of a tuition agreement whereby Warwick students in grades seven to 12 may continue to attend the Pioneer junior and senior high school in Northfield.

At the same time, the Warwick Education Committee has begun planning for the reopening of the town’s elementary school. A timeline of target dates and objectives for re-opening the school was shared during a recent Selectboard meeting. According to the timeline, Warwick aims to submit a detailed educational plan to DESE in September 2021, for approval to reopen the school in the fall of 2022.

“For the school to reopen we need to generate a loud chorus of support from legislators, educational leaders, organizations, businesses, active partners and area residents,” Wyatt wrote in the newsletter.

Since July, Warwick Education Committee members have established a home schooling cooperative for children who choose not to attend Northfield Elementary School. Members are also discussing innovative curriculum models and partnerships to expand programs with regional schools and colleges, and are consulting with other towns and schools to develop an elementary administration.

Should the elementary school reopen, the Warwick Education Committee plans to emphasize place-based learning, a blend of environmental study and community engagement. Active community involvement will include governance, multi-generational programs and civic learning.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.



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