CHICOPEE — Chicopee Public Schools received the OK from the Massachusetts School Building Authority to move forward into the next phase of its proposal for renovating or constructing a new building after an Feb. 28 vote.

The MSBA and Chicopee Public Schools will partner to conduct a feasibility study for replacing the Anna E. Barry Elementary School.

With the feasibility study also comes the schematic design phase to either renovate or replace the existing school building.

On Feb. 28, the MSBA met to discuss inviting five schools into a feasibility study showing that they have completed the necessary prerequisites including the filing of its educational profile questionnaire, finalizing enrollment and securing feasibility study schematic design funds.

On Dec. 27, 2022, the MSBA unanimously accepted Anna E. Barry Elementary School as one of the 10 recipients of the organization’s annual efforts to support the design and construction of public school facilities.

Chicopee will receive 80% reimbursement toward the construction of a new school building or extensive renovations in place of Anna E. Barry’s aged facilities on 44 Connell St.

On Nov. 9, 2023, the City Council unanimously approved $1.2 million for a feasibility study. Staff will be working with the district to study options that maintain their current grade — kindergarten through fifth grade — configuration for no more than 340 students plus pre-K.

At the MSBA meeting on Feb. 28, Mayor John Vieau was present to explain why Anna E. Barry either needs to be rebuilt or renovated.

He said, “We’re highly motivated to either renovate or replace our Barry Elementary School that was built in 1963. The building has, I call it functional obsolesces, when it comes to the way it was built with tiering. There’s no elevator and it’s really difficult, especially for a handicapped student, to make their way throughout the building.”

Other problems Vieau laid out is the gym is located on the third floor, the whole building is “laden” with asbestos in the ceilings and floors, there are single-pane windows, no air conditioning, no sprinkler system for fire suppression and an outdated roof, boiler, generator, phone and HVAC systems.

“I feel like as a city, replacing this school or renovating would bring a nice, safe, modern learning environment for our students to excel,” Vieau added.
Vieau said the city is looking into Article 97 if they decided to replace the school and build it on the abutting park behind the current location of Anna Barry.

The MSBA also received three letters of support from state Sen. John Velis (D-Westfield), state Rep. Shirley Arriaga (D-Chicopee) and state Sen. Jake Oliveira (D-Ludlow).

Arriaga was at the meeting to further explain her support for a new or renovated elementary school.

She said, “Anna Barry School is definitely in need of a lot of repairs and one of those is the inaccessibility for our children. Some of our students unfortunately have to exit the school building and come around a different door to access certain classrooms which of course is something that of course shouldn’t be a thought.”

The MSBA unanimously approved Chicopee Public Schools to move into the feasibility stage.

Superintendent Dr. Marcus Ware shared his feelings about the vote with Reminder Publishing.

He said, “The approval for the Anna E. Barry Elementary School to proceed to the next phases is indeed a significant and exciting milestone for the Chicopee Public Schools community. I believe this reflects a culmination of thorough deliberation of various factors, including the educational needs of our community, infrastructure requirements, and financial feasibility. Considering the school’s age, having been built in 1963, we truly believe this is the best option for students and staff of the school.”

He added that this project’s completion will even provide us the opportunity to expand and add a pre-K program to Barry, which has not been a possibility with current space limitations.

Chicopee will be in collaboration to document its educational programs, generate an initial space summary, document existing conditions, establish design parameters, develop and evaluate alternatives, and recommend the most cost-effective and educationally appropriate preferred solution to the MSBA Board of Directors for their consideration.

During this phase, the owner’s project manager will submit — on behalf of the district and its designer — a Preliminary Design Program and a Preferred Schematic Report.

Approval by the MSBA Board of Directors is required for all projects to proceed into schematic design.

tgarnet@thereminder.com | + posts