Plains School progress

by Town Reminder

plains Aa
June 2014
Plains construction begins
By Kristin Will

SOUTH HADLEY – Construction has begun in the first step of creating a brand new Plains Elementary School Building.
On Friday, May 30, officials held a ground-breaking ceremony. Following remarks from state and school officials, students from the school donned toy hard hats and sang a song to the administration and spectators.
“I think the thing that’s been the most important is the whole community is supportive of this,” said Principal Jill Flanders. “There’s such a commitment to education in this town.”
More than 80 years old, the Plains Elementary School is outdated and inadequate. Classrooms are undersized. Portable classrooms have been used beyond their lifespans. The parking lot poses a problem as does antiquated fire protection systems.
The new two-story school features a single, secure point of entry; a covered and natural play area; energy efficiency with a silver LEED certification; a 6,000 square-foot gym, a library/media center and 21 classrooms including those for art, music and special education.
“We could not do this on our own,” said Selectboard Chair John Hine. He credited the Commonwealth and the residents of South Hadley for their efforts. “Many people voted, many people who don’t have children,” he said.
Overall, South Hadley voted 2-1 for creating a new building.
“It’s really an act of faith when a community comes together and says, ‘I believe in our future,’” said State Senator Stan Rosenberg. Building a new school signifies the community is building a future for one another, he said.
Two phases will first find workers creating and finishing the new 63,000 square-foot building by July of 2015. The second phase includes the demolition of the current structure and a parking lot creation. Completion of phase 2 is set for Sept. 30, 2015.
State Representative John Scibak gave credit to the teachers who have worked in the Plains School building and dealt with the conditions. “It’s an awful facility,” he said of its current state.
Fontaine Brothers have been awarded the project bid.
School will remain in session as the new school building is constructed. Security fences and jersey barriers will be put in place around the school to ensure student safety from the work zone.
The total project budget is $25.9 million. The Massachusetts School Building Authority will cover half of the budgeted cost.

Plains A
February 2013
Voters OK appointed officials, Plains

By Kristin Will

SOUTH HADLEY – An overwhelming majority voted in favor of a debt exclusion for a new Plains School while an effort to change two town positions from elected to appointed just squeaked by.
A 19.4 percent voter turnout was recorded of the town’s 10,729 total active voters.
Question 1 asked residents to allow a temporary hike in taxes in order to construct a new Plains Elementary School on the current property.
A total of 1,364 residents voted in favor, while 720 voted against this question.
The project will cost $28,183,801 million. South Hadley is responsible for $12.9 to $14.3 million, with the Massachusetts School Building Authority covering between $13.9 and $15.3 million.
The project would cost the average taxpayer $131 per year over the course of 20 years.
Question 2, which sought to adopt legislation recommended by the Financial Policy Advisory Team [FinPAT] which would first separate the position of Town Clerk-Treasurer into two different positions, and second, change these positions and the position of Collector from elected by residents to appointed by the Town Administrator, with Selectboard approval.
This question passed by 87 votes. A total of 1,054 residents voted in favor of the change, while 967 voted against.
Question 1 read in full: “Shall the Town of South Hadley be allowed to exempt from the Proposition two-and-one-half, so called, the amounts required to pay for the bonds issued in order to replace the Plains Elementary School, 267 Granby Road, including designing, constructing and originally furnishing a two-story, 63,377 square-foot pre-kindergarten to first grade school on the existing site and demolishing the existing structure?”
Question 2 read in full: “Shall an Act passed by the General Court on Dec. 31, 2013 and signed by the Governor on Jan. 10, 2013 titled, “An Act Relative to the Positions of Collector and Clerk-Treasurer in the Town of South Hadley be accepted?”
Breaking votes down by precinct, 228 residents in Precinct A voted in favor of Question 1 while 106 voted against. For Question 2, 163 residents voted in favor, 159 against and 12 left the question blank.
In Precinct B, 308 residents voted in favor of Question 1, 173 against and one left it blank. For Question 2, 245 residents voted in favor, 222 voted against and 15 left it blank.
In Precinct C, a total of 322 residents voted in favor and 176 against. For Question 2, a total of 242 residents voted in favor, 241 against and 15 left it blank.
In Precinct D, a total of 208 residents voted in favor, 101 against and one left it blank. For Question 2, a total of 170 residents voted in favor, 130 voted against and 10 left it blank.
Finally, in Precinct E, 298 residents voted in favor of Question 1 and 164 voted against. For Question 2, a total of 234 residents voted in favor, 215 against and 13 left it blank.

October 2012
Architects present Plains plans
By Kristin Will

SOUTH HADLEY – Plains Elementary School is just plain ‘ol not up to code.
With no fire sprinkler system, undersized classrooms, parking predicaments and inefficient windows, the school – and school administration – is ready for a complete overhaul.
Architects for the Plains Elementary School building project presented the future plans for the new school in a public meeting Monday.
Project estimates calculated at the end of the schematic design phase, with input from the Massachusetts School Building Authority [MSBA], reveal the project will cost $28,183,801 which includes furniture, contingencies and escalation.
Reimbursement from the MSBA will potentially amount to anywhere between $13.9 and $15.3 million, leaving the town to pay between $12.9 and $14.3 million.
The project would cost the average taxpayer $131 per year over the course of 20 years.
Should school officials pursue just the correction of building deficiencies and forgo new construction, the project would cost $12.3, not including the cost of portable classrooms to house students during renovations.
“I’m very excited about it,” said Plains School Principal Jillayne Flanders. “We have been a part of this since day one.”
She and her team were able to speak with designers about what works well at Plains School, what their goals are for the future and what definitely does not work well.
With that input, she said, the building plans are truly tailored specifically to student needs.
For instance, classrooms are designed in neighborhoods. Five classrooms surround an open meeting space visible and accessible from each room. In the neighborhoods are two smaller rooms for small group discussion and individual instruction. This floor plan, Flanders said, “creates a sense of independence” for the students.
“It’s so exciting to me!” she said.
Another component, which directly benefits the community, is the public accessibility to the grouping of the stage, gym, cafeteria and library.
This section of the school can be secured separately from the classroom portion of the Plains School building.
Additionally, the school will be able to serve the town in the event of an emergency, with the future installation of a large capacity generator and full kitchen.
“There aren’t a lot of facilities in town that have that capacity,” said Nicholas Macy, senior project manger of Arcadis, the firm working on the project in conjunction with Margo Jones Architects.
Should Town Meeting Members approve of a debt exclusion for the project Thursday, Jan. 10 (the meeting occurred after press time) architects can start the 10 to 11-month design phase.
Construction would occur throughout 2014 and 2015, with the school opening in the fall of 2015.
“I think it’s absolutely essential we get a new Plains School,” said Superintendent of Schools Nicolas Young. “This building has fallen behind. We’re excited about his project. It’s well thought out.”
Residents interested in seeing the plans for the new building up close should attend the next public informational meeting to be held Feb. 6 at 6:15 p.m. at Plains Elementary School. A tour of the current building will take place.
Additionally, residents can email or visit for more information.

May 2012
Planning the new Plains School: Officials weigh benefits of one, two stories

By Kristin Will

SOUTH HADLEY – Having agreed upon a location for the new Plains Elementary School Building, officials must now determine whether one story or two will better serve the needs of students.
In the design plans for both types, the new school building has shifted to the right when viewing the edifice from Lyman Street.
Similar in the majority of characteristics, neither site would require phasing or incur additional traffic costs. Invasion of wetlands is not a problem for either proposal and endangered species would not be disturbed.
Potential future plans for Mosier Elementary School would not be limited with these existing locations, as would the remaining options for the new school location.
Another pro for both sites is the playing field adjacent to the new school.
Unfortunately, no other primary schools are located in close proximity- the only con to either proposal.
Roughly, the cost for a one or two-story school would fall between the $22 and $26 million range. Construction of a two-story building would cost less than a one-story.
“The two-story option has some advantages,” said John Hine, a member of the South Hadley School Building Committee and Selectboard Chair at the April 24 meeting of the Selectboard. He added the two-story building appeared to be the preference of the School Building Committee. This option would maintain a smaller footprint and would offer more open space than a one-story building.
The plan for a new Plains Elementary School has been in the works since 2004 when an Elementary School Facilities Study Committee recommended the formation of a Building Needs Committee in order to work with an architect to evaluate the building’s needs. In September of 2006, five options were presented to the town, ranging from taking no action to construction. In June of 2007, members were selected to the South Hadley Building Committee, which was charged with maintaining renovation/construction plans within Massachusetts School Building Authority time and guidelines. Finally, on Nov. 9, 2010, Town Meeting Members voted to appropriate $750,000 for a feasibility study/schematic design to be carried out to determine if renovation of the current building or construction of a new one was needed.
It has now been determined a new building is in fact necessary.
Currently, the 80-year-old Plains Elementary School building is in need of serious infrastructure updates. Classrooms are undersized and overcrowded. Portable classrooms set up more than 20-years ago to aid in housing an abundance of students are still used today –much beyond their lifespan.
Special Education classrooms are considered inadequate, as are exterior program facilities. The ventilation system is not up to par and the fire-alarm system and protection is deemed antiquated. The library and computer rooms are too small and accessibility to particular rooms and the building itself proves to be problematic. Finally, the parking predicament and drop-off/pick-up areas are not adequate.
Design schematics for an updated building of one or two stories show four clusters of classrooms – three consisting of kindergarten and first-grade students with the fourth cluster consisting of just pre-k students. In the middle of the clusters is a media center with art and music rooms. The gym area and cafeteria are grouped together away from the classroom clusters, opposite the point of entry to the school.
At this point in the project, a land issue must be figured out. A 17-acre parcel of land on which officials would like to build a new school abuts the current Plains Elementary School building and runs behind a home on Lyman Street. Previously, it was thought the Conservation Commission owned this land. But, as Hine pointed during the April 24 Selectboard meeting, research was conducted which revealed ownership of the land was transferred to the town of South Hadley in the 1900s. The deed does not show any conservation restrictions in regard to land use, said Hine. At some point, the Conservation Commission began to consider the land as part of conservation land. The acreage is home to the Black Stevens Conservation area and a handful of walking trails.
An idea was tossed out during the meeting to use four to four-and-a-half acres of the parcel for the new Plains Elementary School building and officially transfer the remaining approximate 13 acres to the Conservation Commission.
Regardless, the ownership problem will need to be sorted out in the near future, as schematic designs of either a one or two-story building will be developed between May and July, with the final designs needing to be submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority by Aug. 9.