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South Hadley to open new elementary school



Last modified: Friday, September 11, 2015
SOUTH HADLEY — Construction was the talk of the South Hadley education community this summer.

The middle school will get a new entranceway with bulletproof glass designed to impede unauthorized entry. The Mosier Elementary School is getting a new roof. And the Plains Elementary School, which serves pre-kindergarten through first grade, is getting a brand new building.

The last of these has been a long time coming. Superintendent Nicholas Young framed the connection between talk and action on building the new school by remembering, long before he headed the district, how he was told when his daughter was registering for kindergarten that the old school would soon be replaced. His daughter is now a junior in college.

Studies on what to do about the old building, and how to do it, got underway about a decade ago. Ground was broken for a new building next to it a little more than a year ago. Finally, this fall, the wrecking ball is coming down on the old Plains School at 267 Granby Road. Young anticipates that it will be gone by Christmas.

The new building will not be quite ready by the first day of school Aug. 31, but Young hopes the children and teachers will be able to move in by the second week in September.

The budget for the new building is just over $28 million, of which the Massachusetts School Building Authority will pay almost $15.1 million. “The project is on budget and will potentially come in under budget, based on where we are at this point,” according to Vikas Nagardeolekar, the project manager.

Moving in with the students will be Jill Pasquini-Torchia as the new principal, replacing Jill Flanders, who retired this year. Pasquini-Torchia had been principal of the Mosier Elementary School.

Paul Goodhind, who is coming to South Hadley from the Berlin-Boylston Regional School District in central Massachusetts, will be the new principal at Mosier.

Young is enthusiastic about the new building, saying it will “provide a modern education experience” for the students as “it is perfectly designed to accommodate technology.”

The main lobby features a scale painting of the Pioneer Valley and Connecticut River on the floor.

And there is a staircase that Young describes as having a royal quality to it. “It’s an enlarged version of what you would see in a mansion,” said Young. “It’s just really neat for the kids. I’ve been in a lot of new schools and this is a very attractive one.”

The teaching areas are laid out in a pod structure, grouping students of the same educational level. These “grade-level clusters” allow for “a lot more interaction between students of the same grade and that’s a huge positive,” said Young.

The Plains School is expected to enroll 135 kindergarten students and 140 first graders this year. It also has room for 70 preschoolers. Young said children in town with a documented learning disability are automatically eligible for the preschool, and there are a limited number of slots for other children, said Young.

In previous years South Hadley has accepted children into the preschool from outside the district, but that is changing because interest in attending the school is growing among families in town.

Once the move to the new school is complete, predemolition work will begin on the old building. After it is torn down, the area it now stands on will be paved for a parking lot. Vehicles are currently parked on what will become the playing fields for the new school. Those will be put in place starting as soon as the weather allows in the spring.

Young said work on the new vestibule for the middle school was to have begun this fall but it will be delayed because bids the district received for the work are higher than anticipated.

Eric Goldscheider can be reached at eric.goldscheider@gmail.com.