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Tornado repairs stalls new school at MacDuffie property

Date: 12/14/2011

Dec. 14, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD — Invited guests gathered at one of the academic buildings at the former MacDuffie School on Dec. 8 to raise money for Project 13, the Holyoke-based program for middle school students.

The proposed Commonwealth Academy, which would be based at the MacDuffie site, will be part of the Project 13 program, John Foley, the creator of the program, explained to Reminder Publications.

Commonwealth Academy would be a private school that would encourage students from low-income neighborhoods to attend. Originally, Foley had hoped to have started some school activities at the site at the beginning of 2012, however he explained the damage from the June 1 tornado has slowed the progress of the new school.

Foley said he is currently working with the insurance company to obtain the necessary funds for the repairs to the buildings. He said the buildings are being “buttoned up” for winter and he expected that repairs would be “fully underway” shortly.

He has hired a crew of 13 people to begin work at the campus through the Regional Employment Board, he added.

He said the plan for the school now is to open in September, 2012, and accept 50 to 60 six and ninth graders.

He said that people who have heard about his idea for the school have been supportive. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Holyoke Mayor-elect Alex Morse, Holyoke City Councilor Aaron Vega and Springfield City Councilor Melvin Edwards were in attendance at the fundraiser.

Foley said he is starting two new student-run business programs in Holyoke. High Street Sweets is currently open in the Caledonia Building at 185-193 High Street from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Students operate the candy store to receive business experience, he explained.

High Street Sweets will also be the site for a cupcake baking operation as well, he added.

The other new enterprise is Souperman, a company designed to manufacture and sell soup, Foley said. The soup would be frozen and Foley is seeking a sales outlet for it now.

Both programs would be geared for high school students, Foley said.

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