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Committee accepts recommendations for new school

By Natasha Clark

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM The Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee unanimously voted to accept the recommendations of the Minnechaug Facility Study Committee to build a new high school.

The vote comes after the committee has been conducting research of the accumulating deterioration of Minnechuag Regional High School for more than a year, a report by the Facility Study Committie, a feasibility study by Dore & Whittier Architects, Inc., and a review by independent consultant Ted Merritt of architecture and engineering firm Fletcher Thompson, Inc.

"It's a top high school in a facility that is ... you fill in the blank," said Merritt to the board.

Among the issues Merritt noted in the school were leaky windows, an unaccomodating cafeteria, poor air circulation, fuel issues, traffic problems, and the lack of security.

"It's not fair to have a high school that doesn't lock down," Merritt said.

While Merritt suggested that the school committee opt for building new calling it "the most economical solution to your problem," he also said that they should consider keeping the three-story addition.

"The longer you wait, the more difficult escalation will make the task," added Merritt.

"I don't really know how much life people think can come out of this building," stated William Bickley of the School Committee. "It's falling a part, it's not passing code."

While many of the School Committee members felt that adequate studies and recommendations by professionals had been given, other organizations within town still wanted the School Committee to hold off on making any decision.

At the top of the meeting, David Robin of the Concerned Citizens of Wilbraham asked that the committee host more public forums and ask NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) to revisit the school.

Robin wanted that the School Committee to include NEASC in their decision process, and recommended that they make their decision "with the complete and total support of NEASC," adding that to deny their role is to "also deny their validity."

"If we're going to [move forward with the Facilty Study Committee's recommendation], we're gong to do it comprehensively and not foolishly," assured School Committee Chair Peter Salerno.