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New Easthampton High School building to house buried time capsule

EASTHAMPTON

Plans are in the works for a time capsule to be buried inside the grand foyer of the new city high school under construction on Williston Avenue.

Michael Buehrle, chairman of the Easthampton High School Building Committee, said a subcommittee that includes school administrators and School Committee members will solicit ideas for items to place inside the 6-by-22-inch tube — including ideas from students.

Buehrle said he’s been asked by numerous citizens whether there might be a time capsule buried beneath the existing 51-year-old high school, slated to be torn down once the new $39.2 million building is completed.

“We’ve asked a lot of people in town and they say no,” Buehrle said. But he added that the contractor is on the lookout in case such a capsule is uncovered during the final phase of construction.

At last week’s School Committee meeting, Buehrle reported the new high school building, which has many energy efficient features, is now 85 percent complete.

“On the third floor, you walk in and the lights come on. You leave the room and the lights go off,” Buehrle said. “It’s simply amazing every time I go over there.”

Jan. 15 is the “substantial completion” date for the building, when the 110,400-square-foot structure must be fully enclosed and the city officially takes possession, Buehrle said.

After that, furniture, fixtures and electronic equipment will be delivered. Walk-throughs will be scheduled in early January for high school teachers “to give them a feel for the building,” he said.

“I know for a fact the librarian will be thrilled,” Buehrle added.

Students are scheduled to move into the new, three-story high school over spring break of 2013. Once the move is complete, the existing school building will be demolished — “the first educational facility in Easthampton we’re going to tear down,” Buehrle noted.

In 2010, voters approved an $18 million debt exclusion override to pay for the city’s portion of the high school building project. The state is paying 64 percent of the total costs.

Teacher’s honor

Pepin School third-grader Jackson Frechette knows how to keep a secret.

Two weeks ago, he learned that his teacher, Kelley Przekopowski, was named Teacher of the Month by radio station KIX 100.9 and Country Bank in Springfield. The radio station accepts nominations from area residents who want to recognize teachers.

Frechette, who had nominated Przekopowski for the honor, kept mum in order to surprise her with the news that she’d won last week.

Here’s what he said in his nomination letter: “Mrs. Przekopowski gives a lot of math work, but makes it fun. Mrs. Przekopowski knew things at recess were (bothering) me and she helped fix them. Mrs. Przekopowski talked to us about trick or treat safety because she cares about us. She stayed up really late making us cupcakes for Halloween. She read us a story with pictures and had us each draw a picture of what we thought the characters looked like. Mrs. Przekopowski is nice, happy, cheerful and smart!”

His teacher, a six-year veteran of the Easthampton schools, received a plaque and gift certificates for items such as the New England Air Museum, Look Park, Big Y and Tavern on the Hill.

More than that, Przekopowski said, the award “gave me a lot of energy. It felt wonderful.”

The 44-year-old teacher, who lives in Holyoke with husband, Jeff, and 7-year-old son, Timmy, said she was particularly struck by the part of the nomination letter describing her as happy.

“I told the kids in my class that there are 24 reasons why I’m so happy,” she said. “Every one of them.”

Sykes leads board

The Easthampton School Committee has a new leader. At their meeting last week, members unanimously elected Nancy Sykes to head the board. effective Jan. 8. Sykes replaces Peter Gunn, who has been School Committee chair for the past three years and a board member since 2006.

Gunn said he is stepping down as chair, “because I’m a believer in rotation in office.”

“There’s a lot of talent on the school committee and one of the benefits of rotating is getting a different perspective, he said. “I’m looking forward to staying on the board and continuing to advocate for our schools and students.”

After she was nominated last week, Sykes told her colleagues, “Before we vote, I just want to say that I will need guidance from all of you if I take this on.”

“Don’t worry,” Gunn assured her, with a smile. “My experience has been there are plenty of people who’ll give you that.”

First elected to the school board in 2009, Sykes has more than 40 years of experience in education, including a stint as dean of students at Western New England University Law School. She’s been a city resident for more than five years.

Barbara Solow can be reached at BSolow@gazettenet.com.

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