Pioneer outdoor classroom project halted; grant funding to be redirected

  • A not-to-scale image depicting where an outdoor classroom pavilion would be constructed on the Pioneer Valley Regional School grounds in Northfield. Last week, the School Committee agreed not to move forward with the outdoor classroom at this time, and to redirect the associated grant funding to other needs. Screenshot

Staff Writer
Published: 7/26/2021 2:53:26 PM

NORTHFIELD — While the outdoor classroom pavilion project is not moving forward at this time, the Pioneer Valley Regional School District is able to use the associated grant for other needs. A new use for the money has yet to be determined.

During a School Committee meeting last week, members received an update in Superintendent Jonathan Scagel’s report regarding the status of the previously discussed outdoor classroom pavilion project. Scagel cited a delay in contracts and an increase in costs from original estimates as reasons why the project can’t move forward.

“In the end, we didn’t have the time or funds,” Scagel explained on Friday.

The project was to be funded by a $100,000 Career and Technical Education Community Partnership Planning Grant received by District Curriculum Coordinator Ariel LaReau. Stipulations for this grant required $50,000 to be spent by June 30, while the rest of the money needed to be spent by the end of August.

“Unfortunately, the delay in the contracts we received from the company who was awarded the bid, and the increase in costs from the original estimates we received (based on the clarifications attached to the contract), put us significantly over the amount we have allocated in the grant for this project,” Scagel wrote in his July 15 report.

School Committee Vice Chair Mike Townsley said the project’s original projected cost was $45,000. He explained part of the reason the project wasn’t recommended to move forward was due to “a second contract that had $6,100 on top of” the original estimate.

“You’re probably looking at $75,000 to $80,000 instead of $45,000 by the time you’re done,” he said.

After reaching out to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), it was determined the school district can amend the plan to use the money from the outdoor classroom on other projects.

“The grant money that was going to pay for the project has been amended,” Scagel said Friday.

This will allow the district to take the $50,000 from the grant that was originally intended for the outdoor classroom project and put it toward other projects or needs.

School Committee members said they still want to proceed with the outdoor classroom project, but will need to do so through other resources. Scagel said conversations will continue as the district explores possible avenues for funding.

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


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