Groundbreaking Ceremony Held for New Westwood Elementary School
Thanks to Westwood Public Schools for contributing this article to Westwood Minute.
Westwood’s Gay Street has been an active spot since mid-July when construction on the town’s new Hanlon-Deerfield elementary school began. But the long process of building this new school, which is partially funded by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), was commemorated with an official groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday September 28, 2022.
“The end result is going to be awesome,” said John Cummings, chairman of the Permanent Building Committee (PBC). “It’s going to be a phenomenal school and we’ve had such tremendous support from the town throughout the process.”
That support was echoed by Jack McCarthy who serves as executive director of the MSBA. “Westwood has been a pleasure to work with,” McCarthy said. “They follow the process, they appreciate our feedback, they listen and react in a positive way. The first word in our mission is the word partner, and we take that seriously. Westwood has been a great partner.”
McCarthy says the process of determining whether the MSBA will accept a project begins with three factors – the cost to bring a school building up to code, the cost of an addition or renovation, and the cost of a new building.
“We found the one that made the most sense, both as being cost-effective and the best education plan, was a new building,” said McCarthy. “It’s not a decision that is made haphazardly. The town did at least a year’s study to come up with this, and that’s why I’m so confident it’s the right solution.”
Also in attendance at the groundbreaking were members of the School Committee, Select Board, State Representative Paul McMurtry, a representative from State Senator Michael Rush’s office, representatives from various town departments, the project’s architect Dore+Whittier, the project’s management company, Compass Project Management, and the project’s general contractor, Brait Builders Corporation.
“The construction process itself is going to be loud, noisy, and dirty,” said Cummings. “We know this part is hard for the neighborhood and we appreciate the support and patience of all the neighbors. I actually live in this neighborhood so I understand the inconvenience, but this new school will uplift all of Westwood when it’s completed.”
School Committee member Maya Plotkin led the School Building Committee and is now a member of the PBC.
“This project would not have been possible without the tremendous support and engagement from the residents of Westwood,” said Plotkin. “We have heard from so many residents throughout this entire process. We listened to their suggestions and incorporated many into our plan, and we feel we have a much better project because of community feedback. That’s why being here today is so rewarding.”
Perhaps as a small reward for the work Plotkin herself has put into the project, shortly after the ceremony, she had the opportunity to push the button that ignited a small blast that was part of the construction schedule.
Superintendent Emily Parks recalled giving tours of Westwood High School when it opened twenty years ago. “I will never forget the moment when a particular student walked into the auditorium,” said Parks. “Her eyes welled up and she looked at me and said, ‘Wow. I can’t believe I get to go to school here!’ We believe that for decades to come young students will walk into this new school and have that same sense of excitement and wonder.”
The new school is currently scheduled to open in February 2024.