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Master plan to be revealed at public forum

Date: 10/3/2013

By Chris Maza

EAST LONGMEADOW – The School Committee and East Longmeadow Public Schools will host a public forum on Oct. 10 at which they will reveal the beginnings of a master plan for the schools.

The forum will take place at East Longmeadow High School at 6:30 p.m.

Superintendent of Schools Gordon Smith said the master planning process started out as a look at the district’s buildings, but quickly evolved into a more comprehensive project.

“What began as a facilities study has evolved into a master plan that looks at all of our five buildings in a very in-depth and comprehensive way,” he said. “It’s a master plan in that it’s pulled in some visioning work we’ve done in which we explored where we want to be in educational programs in which we continue to try to help students achieve 21st-century skills.”

Smith explained that the master plan takes a look at where the district wishes to be in 15 to 20 years in terms of “keeping our buildings viable and keeping our students in a learning atmosphere that is most productive for them.”

Smith said problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration, in addition to the ability to communicate both orally and in writing remain some of the main focuses for students throughout the grade levels.

“With that in mind, when you come back to the facilities piece, what does that mean for our buildings and our classrooms themselves?” he asked.

Smith said the building study portion of the master plan process began in January.

“Most of the background work was done between January and June and then they put together the data and reported to the steering committee,” he explained. “What it did was create this massive database, which we’ll show parts of at the forum, that has every room, every space in the district in there with comments on it and in most cases digital photos.”

Smith said the database could then be used to break down the data into various reports that he said would be immensely helpful in planning for the future.

“If you wanted to know all areas that were undersized when compared to [Massachusetts School Building Authority] guidelines, or areas that present safety situations – whether security or fire alarms or something else, you can bring those up,” he said. “It’s really an incredible database.”

From that pool of information, Smith said, the district is attempting to determine cost estimates for capital projects within the school district.

“This study should be what is driving our capital planning from here on out,” he said.