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Renovated School Has Touches Of The Past And Modern Educational Tools

forestparkmiddleclassroom.jpg
WAMC
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A school building in Springfield, Massachusetts that was originally constructed in 1898 has been transformed into a 21st century learning center.   Classes have resumed at the Forest Park Middle School following a three-year renovation project.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and other elected officials marveled at the newly renovated school building during a tour Tuesday morning.  Sarno said the outcome of the $43 million project confirmed it was the right decision to renovate the old building rather than try to build a new school for 700 sixth-,seventh- and eighth-graders in the densely populated Forest Park Neighborhood.

The school was completely gutted for the renovation and an addition was put on to house a gymnasium.  The school now has bright spacious classrooms with multiple computer terminals, wide hallways with new lockers, state-of-the-art science labs, a new cafeteria and a new library.

Forest Park Middle School principal Medina Ali described the old building as unsafe. She said there were cracks in walls, paint was peeling and plaster crumbling. Classrooms were cold in the winter and hot in the spring and fall. The old electrical wiring made it impossible to plug in more than one computer at a time in most classrooms.

Ali predicted attendance will increase and the school’s overall academic performance will improve.

The renovated three-story building is fully handicap accessible with a new street level entrance and an elevator.

Springfield School Superintendent Daniel Warwick said while the school has all the modern educational tools some of the ornate architectural details of the original building were kept, including the wood baseboards in the hallways and the oak wood floor in the auditorium.

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Credit WAMC
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The refurbished auditorium in the Forest Park Middle School

Ninety percent of the project’s cost was paid for by the state. It was the last project approved by the Massachusetts School Building Authority before the state reimbursement rate was capped at 80 percent. Warwick said over the last four years the state has given Springfield about $300 million for school renovations and repairs. The new $114 million Putnam Vocational Technical High School opened a year ago.

Superintendent Warwick also led a tour Tuesday of the new location for the city’s alternative school. Three programs that had been in different locations are now on one campus in a former Catholic elementary school.

The alternative school serves children with acute behavioral problems, substance abuse issues and chronic truancy.  It currently has about 250 students enrolled.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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