Students will begin classes on August 28th in the second-largest school district in Massachusetts after what officials described as a “summer blitz” of construction.
Improvement projects are taking place at 15 buildings in the Springfield Public School system. The work ranges from putting on new roofs to interior painting. The total cost is $17.2 million, according to Mayor Domenic Sarno.
" You don't have to have a Taj Mahal to have a great school but it does help for a good physical environment for our teachers, our students, our staff and our families."
The projects are 80 percent state funded with 20 percent coming from the city.
Sarno praised the Massachusetts School Building Authority for its major investment in Springfield. New schools and renovation projects have totaled $650 million over the past decade, more than any other school system in the state.
" I am going to continue to go after every dime I can, and it is great that we are beating out Boston by getting more money," said Sarno. " It has been a team approach and we will continue to rehab schools and build new schools."
The biggest projects this summer are taking place at seven schools which are getting new roofs, windows, and doors along with other upgrades to bring the buildings into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Smaller projects at other schools include putting in a new fire alarm system, installing a new gymnasium floor, restroom upgrades, and replacing door locks. Paving projects totaling $198,000 were planned at a half-dozen schools.
Superintendent of Schools Dan Warwick said the work is on a par with what has been done in previous summers as part of a capital improvement plan the school committee authorized five years ago.
"It is important we invest in the schools," said Warwick. " This is part of our strategic plan to move the school system forward. In the last ten years we have really invested in our infrastructure and I think it is going to yield dividends down the road."
The construction work is complicated by the fact the school buildings are not empty in July and August because of summer school.
" We run summer programs actually in every building and where there are major projects going on we move the summer programs into other buildings and work around it," said Warwick. " It takes some logistical work but we have to do that because we are virtually running summer schools for every school."
The average age of schools in Springfield is 55 years old. Improving the integrity of the buildings with new roofs and windows will increase the useful life of the schools by another 35-50 years, according to Peter Garvey, the city’s Director of Capital Assets.
Most of the work should be finished by the time classes begin, but some of the projects will not be completed until fall.