Survey and community meeting planned for new elementary school

Franklin Avenue Elementary School (WNG File Photo)

WESTFIELD – The Westfield Public School district is sending out a public survey on Thursday, May 30 in advance of a community meeting to be held June 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Franklin Avenue Elementary school.
The main purpose of both the survey and the meeting will be to inform the community and get input on a new elementary school for downtown Westfield. Currently, the district is in the eligibility period with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), to enlarge Franklin Avenue to accommodate students from Abner Gibbs.
School Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski said the district submitted its Statement of Interest (SOI) last year, and were invited to enter the eligibility stage, which lasts 270 days. The next step will be a MSBA feasibility study.
Currently the plan is to add two wings to Franklin Avenue Elementary School, which was built in 1955, to accommodate 400 students. At present, there are 210 students at Franklin Avenue and 220 at Abner Gibbs. Czaporowski said that plan could change after the feasibility study if the MSBA determines that it would be more cost effective to start over with a new school on the site, which is owned by the city.
Czaporowski said Abner Gibbs, built in 1914, needs to be replaced because of the significant work that would need to be done to renovate the building, which he said is not cost effective. He said they have patched the roof, but it needs a whole new one. The classrooms are smaller than in any other school, and the entire building is not handicap accessible.
“The biggest reason is we want modern facilities for our students in the downtown area,” Czaporowski said about the plan. He said the end result will be a cost effective and educationally appropriate solution.
The district is also putting together a building committee to go forward with the project. Included will be the principals of both schools, the superintendent, mayor, chief financial officer, a representative from the School Committee, the Ward 3 councilor, parents from each school, and a member(s) from the community not affiliated with the schools.
“Our meeting is to basically inform the community of where we are, where we’d like to go, seek their input and build community support for the school,” Czaporowski said. He added that the meeting is open to all members of the community, and there will be time for questions and answers. The meeting will also be broadcast on Channel 15.
Czaporowski said if the district moves forward to the feasibility study with the MSBA and a plan is accepted, construction could begin in 2022, and be completed in 2023.
The survey, which will run from May 30 to June 13, the day after the meeting, will also contain questions on the redistricting process, particularly on moving the fifth grade out of the elementary schools, and creating the Westfield Intermediate School and the Westfield Middle School.
“We do want feedback about the transition last year. It was a monumental task, and we want to see if it met people’s expectations,” Czaporowski said. The survey will be sent out to families in the district and members of the Chamber of Commerce, and it will be posted on the district website at The results of the survey will be reported out at the June 17 School Committee meeting.

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