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Willie Ross School celebrates recently completed renovations

Date: 10/22/2015

LONGMEADOW – The Willie Ross School for the Deaf recently celebrated the completion of the renovation of its teaching kitchen and library during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the school on Oct. 15.

Willie Ross School President and CEO Bert Carter said the kitchen was out-of-date and was likely last renovated during the 1970s.

“It just wasn’t functional for our students, which was the purpose of the kitchen,” he noted. “It’s not there to serve lunch or that sort of thing – it’s for their education.”

New professional grade appliances were installed, the room was rearranged to allow teachers space to educate their students, and whiteboards were put in place to allow teaching in the kitchen, Carter said.

“We do independent living skills, but we also have older students who are doing vocational explorations so they might be looking at food preparation as a vocation,” he added. “Our students here are from age 3 to 22.”

The renovation was completed during the summer and did not disrupt school programming, he noted.

During the last several years, the Willie Ross School has received Link to Libraries book donations, but ran out of shelving space for books, Carter said.

“We really needed to reorganize our library to put in more shelving and make it more usable,” he added.

Donors for the teaching kitchen and library renovations include the Beveridge Family Foundation, Curtis Blake and his wife, Link to Libraries, the Rotary Club of Springfield, Shurtleff Children’s Services, James Vinick and the Westfield Bank Future Fund.

“None of this could be possible without the generosity of our donors who help us provide the facilities that our contracts with public school systems don’t cover, such as these,” Carter said.

Vinick, a former Willie Ross trustee member, told Reminder Publications four years ago he was asked by Link to Libraries if he wanted to become involved with the organization. Since then, he has been the sole Link to Libraries sponsor for Willie Ross and has helped the school add several hundred books to its library collection.

“Literacy is the key to education,” he added. “If you can’t read, you’re not going to go very far in life.”

Town Manager Stephen Crane, the Select Board, and state Rep. Brian Ashe also congratulated the Willie Ross School on the upgrades to its facility.  

“It’s a space that’s been under utilized and really, especially the kitchen, was antiquated,” Ashe said. “To see them get a kitchen that is so useful and brand new; it’s been a long time coming.”