WESTFIELD – The city is in the beginning phase of creating a larger school in the core of the city that would combine Franklin Avenue and Abner Gibbs schools.
Westfield Schools Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski and Chief Financial Officer Ronald R. Rix updated the community on the process Wednesday night at Franklin Avenue School, the proposed site of a new build or renovation project.
The new school would add another 200-plus-students to the current 220 at Franklin Avenue.
The Massachusetts School Building Authority selected the project as one of 12 to consider from hundreds of applications from districts across the state, said Rix. Czaporowski noted that it is the only project currently being considered in western Massachusetts.
The goal of the MSBA is the same as Westfield, said Czaporowski –“educationally appropriate and cost effective.”
Westfield is in the initial phase of gathering more information, which must be sent to the MSBA in July. As part of this phase, the school department hired a firm to conduct an in-depth study on projected enrollment and student needs.
The next phase, if approved by the MSBA, is the feasibility study. Rix said the city should know by the end of the year if it will be invited to this phase. If it is, this is when space requirements, design and study of existing space will come into play.
Costs were not part of the presentation because they are unknown. If the project moves forward with the MSBA process, design will dictate cost. Rix said they will take the neighborhood and neighbors into account when designing the entrance and exit and could include a drop-off and pick-up, more parking and potentially one-way traffic flow. Czaporowski said the MSBA would reimburse the city 69.82% of the cost, excluding any costs related to preschool because the MSBA only funds kindergarten through grade 12 projects.
Mike Desabrais owns a one-acre property on Franklin Street that abuts the school property and said he would like to offer his property to the school department, if needed.
“I was thinking about selling this year, and if the city needs it, I want to help,” said Desabrais, whose nieces and nephews attended Franklin Avenue School.
Part of the next phase is to create a School Building Committee, comprised of members dictated by the MSBA, including School Committee members, parents, community members, MSBA representatives and more.
Rix and Czaporowski promised the entire process would continue to be transparent and fielded questions from the few dozen members of the audience about traffic concerns, whether students would remain in the school during construction and expected completion.
Rix said if the project continues through the MSBA process and all goes on time, the school could open as soon as 2023.
Czaporowski encouraged parents of Westfield students to fill out a survey as part of the information gathering process at schoolsofwestfield.org.