Future of school facilities

Dear Holyoke Families,

I am excited to share the information I presented to the School Committee (see https://www.hps.holyoke.ma.us/turnaround/future-of-school-facilities/ ) at our most recent meeting regarding new school building construction in Holyoke. As you may be aware, since I arrived in Holyoke, we have been working closely with the School Committee and the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to review the condition of our school buildings. The MSBA worked with us to conduct a facility audit of the District’s educational facilities and offered a series of strategies for the future rethinking of our portfolio. We saw this as a unique opportunity to re-examine our facilities to reflect our educational vision and extensively engaged the community around these strategies.

More specifically, after meeting with all elementary and middle school teams, hosting 4 community sessions, reviewing 200+ facility survey responses, reviewing the culture and climate survey results from all stakeholders last year, and analyzing 20+ school portfolio scenarios, the following emerged as high priorities for portfolio design:

• Moving the system towards a PreK-5, 6-8 middle school and 9-12 reconfiguration

• Closing the facilities which scored the lowest on the Facilities Review

• Ensuring equity of access and resources

• Designating a Pre-K center to specialize resources for early learning, as well as having the opportunity to expand preschool seats

• Ensuring middle schools are a “best fit” size – large enough to allow for meaningful teacher collaboration and a uniquely “middle school” student experience, yet small enough to promote strong relationships

• Continuing to expand unique programs, such as the dual language and P3 (personalized learning) programs

• Planning for structural and financial sustainability

With this mind, we recommended a long-term reconfiguration of our portfolio that ensures middle schools of approximately 450-550 students, ensures equity of access to a state-of-the-art facility for all of Holyoke’s middle school students, reintroduces a Pre-K Center into our portfolio, allows us to expand successful and desirable programs, closes the lowest-rated facilities, and ultimately saves $4.5 million in operating costs that can be reinvested to support key programming for students. We also need to ensure ongoing maintenance and updates to existing facilities to ensure that the physical facility reflects the educational environment we want for all of our students.

To this end, the key recommendation is to work with the City of Holyoke and the MSBA to explore potential projects to serve the middle school population in Holyoke. The MSBA and their Board have encouraged us to file a Statement of Interest and appropriate funds for a feasibility study for a potential middle school project.

Please know there will be a great deal of discussion and planning over many years, and we greatly welcome and look forward to your input and collaboration. In the longer run, there will be many opportunities for families, students, teachers and staff to be involved in design of new facilities and educational programming, assuming we are provided the funding at both the City and State levels to do so. Thank you in advance for your support and partnership as we explore important steps to transform the educational experience for the youth of the city for many years to come.


Stephen Zrike

Background – Options for New School Construction in Holyoke

The district held discussions about school buildings and the criteria to build new schools in the city.  Contact the Student Enrollment & Family Empowerment Center at (413) 534-2000 x1101 for a copy of the MSBA report summary that was prepared to analyze and assess the conditions of our twelve buildings and provide some suggested options and strategies.  The full study is available upon request by contacting Patty Ferreira, pferreira@hps.holyoke.ma.us.

November 16th meeting resources: PowerPoint in English (pdf.) and Spanish (pdf.)

November 16th Meeting Video on Channel 12

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