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Westfield School Committee accepts Russell school lease

Date: 5/22/2015

WESTFIELD – The School Committee voted unanimously to accept the lease agreement for Russell Elementary School with the town of Russell on May 18.

The lease begins July 1 and will run for 18 months, with the option to extend for up to three six-month periods. The $250,000 annual payment will be made directly to the town of Russell.    

The move to Russell Elementary comes at the end of an agreement between the city and Westfield State University. The city will move out of Juniper Park Elementary School, which is owned by the university, because of the department of education’s need for the facility.    

The new lease has been designed to accommodate the tentative construction schedule of the new school at the corner of Ashley and Cross Streets, Superintendent Dr. Suzanne Scallion told Reminder Publications when terms of the lease were decided in March.

She said finding the school, which closed in 2010, was an ideal situation. School Committee member Kevin Sullivan echoed this, though he said it did not start in the best way.    

“Kudos again to the administration, Mr. Rix and the staff in putting this together,” Sullivan said. “I know it was kind of new territory for us all, not really pleasant territory when this job started, but I think it’s gone very smoothly and the end result has been, I won’t say beneficial, but as good as it could be for the district.”

There has been no finalized timeline for the new elementary school in Westfield, which has been delayed for three years due to controversy surrounding the property.    

The proposed fiscal year 2016 budget has prepared for the move from Juniper Park to Russell Elementary, setting aside $30,000 estimated for the physical move to the new school. The budget also included first-time fees for maintenance that was previously taken care of by Westfield State.

The budget has yet to be finalized, and Mayor Daniel Knapik said the proposed budget “could change dramatically” at the public hearing on May 11.

Despite budgetary changes and concerns, Scallion said furniture from Juniper Park would be “gifted” from Westfield State in the coming weeks.

“Inventory is complete. We’ve made a wish list of what we would like, and they have to go through their legal maneuvers,” Scallion said to the School Committee. “I don’t know how they will be conveyed to us but it’s to be continued, and we’re very grateful, I might add.”