City Council has approved the project. MSBA to vote on June 21.
Full presentation slides used in April 26 City Council Finance Committee meeting
Draft site and floor plans of the model school (En Español).
Full presentation slides used in April 5 and April 10 Community Conversations (PDF) En Español (PDF)
Zoom recording from April 10 community conversation (En Español)
Note: The MSBA requires the School Building Committee to include community members who meet specific designations, as noted below in parentheses.
In addition, members whose names are marked with an asterisk (*) are Holyoke alumni. Names marked with a plus sign (+) are parents/guardians/grandparents of Holyoke students or alumni.
Joshua Garcia*+, Mayor of the City of Holyoke
(Local Chief Executive, Representative of office authorized by law to construct school buildings, Local budget official or member of local finance Committee)
Anthony Soto*, Receiver/Superintendent
(Superintendent of Schools)
Whitney Anderson+, Facilities Administrator
(Local official responsible for building maintenance)
Jaime Morrow, Assistant Director of Procurement for the City of Holyoke (SBC member who is MCPPO certified)
Erin Brunelle*+, School Committee Member, Realtor
(School Committee Member)
Member of the community
Kenia Davila*+, Caseworker
(Member of the community with community development experience)
Jackie Glasheen*+, Executive Director of School Leadership
(School Principal, Member knowledgeable in educational mission and function of facility)
Reina Lorenzi*+, Senior Auditor
(Member of the community with finance/accounting experience)
Mark Lubold*+, General Manager
(Member of community with architecture, engineering and/or construction experience)
Kathy Ortiz, Gear Up Advisor & Site Supervisor
(Member of the community with community development experience)
Jessica Perella+, Parent and UMass Student
(Member of the community with community development experience)
Anja Ryan, Project Manager and Landscape Architect (Member of community with architecture, engineering and/or
Peter Tallman*+, City Councilor, Vice-Chair of the Finance Committee, Retired Letter Carrier
(Local budget official or member of local finance Committee)
Debra Vega+, Co-Owner & Dance Instructor
(Member of the community with community development and business experience)
David Yos+, Tax Preparer
(Member of the community with finance/accounting experience
Holyoke Public Schools is rezoning to create distinct elementary and middle schools for fall 2023, while also reimagining its middle school program to strengthen educational learning opportunities for students in grades 6-8. As part of this reimagining process, Holyoke is considering construction of a new middle school to replace the poorly designed, energy-inefficient William R. Peck Middle School that no longer meets the needs of a modern education. Under the rezoning plan, the Peck building will be closed at the end of the 2022-23 school year. Sullivan School, Holyoke STEM, and Metcalf Middle School will serve students in grades 6-8 beginning in fall 2023.
The City of Holyoke, Holyoke Public Schools, and the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) are working together to try to build a new middle school for approximately 550 students in grades 6-8.
If funding is approved by the MSBA, the existing Peck School would be demolished and a new school would be built at that site by fall 2025 or 2026. Students assigned to Holyoke STEM and Metcalf Middle would then attend the new school built on the site of Peck School. (On June 6, 2023, the Holyoke City Council voted unanimously to support funding the new school. MSBA approval is the next step in the process.)
If funding for new construction is not approved by the MSBA, students from Holyoke STEM and Metcalf Middle would move back into the existing Peck building. HPS would work with the City to upgrade the existing facility to the extent possible, but there would be many limitations—especially with funding. In 2018, it was estimated that renovating Peck just to bring it up to code would be $59 million, while renovating Peck to bring the building up to code and meet educational goals would cost $72 million. These costs would be 100% the responsibility of the City; the MSBA would not participate.
Key milestones have been reached to move this project forward:
May 4, 2020: Holyoke submitted a Statement of Interest (SOI) to the MSBA to replace the Peck building.
April 6, 2021: City Council passed a resolution to demonstrate support for a 550-student middle school building and that the City had the capacity to afford the construction.
April 14, 2021: The MSBA accepted the SOI for the Peck School and invited Holyoke into the MSBA’s Eligibility Period.
September 2021: The School Building Committee (SBC) begins meeting 1-2 times per month to shape and direct the middle school building project.
October 18, 2021: HPS School Committee hears report and recommendations from the Middle Grades Collaborative Study Team. Video (report begins at 1:36 mark). Read the presentation in English or Spanish.
February 15, 2022: Members of the Holyoke City Council voted 9-4 in favor of funding $475,000 for a feasibility study.
April 27, 2022: The MSBA voted to partner with Holyoke to conduct a feasibility study for replacing the William R. Peck School. As part of its invitation, the MSBA voted to proceed into the schematic design phase as well..
May 2022: Holyoke submitted an updated educational program to the MSBA.
August 2022: Holyoke hired Anser Advisory to be the Owner’s Project Manager (OPM). The OPM provides project management guidance and expertise throughout the life of the project.
September 14, 2022: Holyoke presented the revised Educational Plan to the MSBA’s Facilities Assessment Subcommittee and received positive comments.
September 28, 2022: MSBA and Holyoke had a meeting to launch the Model School process.
November 17, 2022: The School Building Committee (SBC) conducted interviews with three architecture/design firms: Flansburgh, Jones Whitsett, and Mount Vernon Group. Note: On December 9, 2022, Jones Whitsett sent a letter to the Mayor, withdrawing from consideration.
January 12, 2023: The SBC conducted second-round interviews with two design firms: Flansburgh and Mount Vernon Group. The SBC voted (11-2) to move forward with negotiations with Mount Vernon Group.
January 30, 2023: The contract between the City of Holyoke and Mount Vernon Group for schematic design services of $265,000 was signed. Note: The $265,000 is part of the $475,000 that the City Council previously appropriated to move the project forward.
April 18, 2023: City Council refers middle school building project to the Finance Committee.
April 26, 2023: Discussion about the middle school at the City Council Finance Committee
April 27, 2023: Schematic design submitted to the MSBA
May 10, 2023: Discussion about the middle school at the City Council Finance Committee
May 24, 2023: The City Council Finance Committee voted unanimously in support of the proposed new school
June 6, 2023: The City Council voted unanimously in support of funding the proposed new school
June 21, 2023: Anticipated vote for funding by the MSBA
In 2016, consultant STV, Incorporated completed a survey condition report and analysis of the district’s 12 school buildings currently in use. In its report, STV specifically noted that the Peck School—which was built in 1973 and currently serves around 645 students in grades 4-8—should no longer be used to educate students. This recommendation is based in part on the aging physical condition of the building’s exterior, mechanical systems, and interior finishes that would be costly to repair or update. The report noted that Peck “is poorly organized and difficult to navigate, which means it is difficult to supervise and control. There are a few internalized classrooms that do not receive direct natural light, and the building is all-electric which makes it expensive to operate.” Replacement parts are no longer available to maintain and upgrade the building’s electrical systems.
The report also noted that Peck’s original octagonal design “results in irregularly shaped classrooms, and internalized classrooms without natural light. The ring-shaped corridors are also lacking natural light. The overall experience is disorienting; the faculty and administration report difficulty managing the space with such short and poor sightlines. Many of the classrooms and corridors were originally separated by moveable partitions that no longer function and have poor acoustic performance. Windows in the classrooms are typically small; the original glazing was replaced with polycarbonate that is scratched, discolored, and no longer transparent.”
This 2018 video provides a visual tour of the Peck school, noting deficiencies in both the building’s design and condition.
In 2019, Holyoke residents rejected a proposal that would have allowed Holyoke Public Schools to build two new middle schools. After the city’s analysis demonstrated that Holyoke can afford one new middle school building under the existing tax structure, City Councilors voted unanimously on April 6, 2021 in favor of a resolution that the Holyoke City Council endorses the plan to apply to the MSBA to build one middle school for 550 students. With this support, the MSBA accepted Holyoke’s SOI for a new school building and the middle school building project is underway
As part of this process, former Holyoke Acting Mayor Murphy appointed a School Building Committee, which usually meets the first and third Thursdays of the month at 6 p.m. via Zoom and in-person. Meetings can also be viewed via Zoom Webinar and on Channel 15.
The recordings (in English and Spanish) can be found in the Holyoke Media video archive.
Agendas and Meeting Minutes can be found in this folder.
Members of the public who wish to submit public comments can email Erin Brunelle at firstname.lastname@example.org, no later than 3 p.m. the day of the meeting.
There are also numerous working groups—Academics/Extracurriculars, Building Design, Communications, Finance—that support the work of the School Building Committee. If you are interested in joining a working group to share your expertise and opinions, please send an Email to Erin Linville.
In addition to thanking all of our SBC members for their efforts on this project, we also want to thank Councilor Tallman for being an important liaison between the SBC and City Council, since he serves on both.
What is the Model School Program, and why is it a good fit for Holyoke?
MSBA established the Model School Program to “effectively adapt and re-use the design of successful, recently constructed Pre-K through 12th grade schools. Model Schools are efficient in design and easy to maintain, contain optimal classroom and science lab space, can easily accommodate higher or lower enrollments, incorporate sustainable, ‘green’ design elements when possible and are flexible in educational programming spaces while encouraging community use.”
In September 2022, the MSBA identified five school designs from three different firms that might work for Holyoke. After contacting the firms, two firms (Flansburgh, Mount Vernon Group) felt like their Model School designs would work in Holyoke. We also interviewed Jones Whitsett since they had previously developed a design for Holyoke, although the building had not been built in another location.
Why did the Building Committee select Mount Vernon Group and their team as the Design Team?
Mount Vernon Group has a very strong record of designing buildings that meet the needs of their client districts and are highly cost effective. The design they presented has been built three times in Massachusetts: Lincoln Elementary in New Bedford, MA (2011), Athol Community Elementary School (2016), and Goodnow Brothers Elementary School in Marlborough (2018).
This demonstrates that the building has been adapted to meet the needs of various communities and that we can expect efficiencies through the design and construction since its been built before. The Design team demonstrated in their interview how the school could be adapted for a middle school curriculum. Members of the SBC visited the Goodnow School in Marlborough in December. Reference calls made by Committee members provided evidence that prior clients had a positive experience, including accurate and high-quality construction documents; their work has been completed on or ahead of schedule; and they have demonstrated positive communication and collaboration with districts, municipalities, and general contractors.
How can I learn more about Mount Vernon Group?
You can visit the MVG website. Mount Vernon Group’s headquarters is in Wakefield, MA, and they have a satellite office in Chicopee, MA. Their project team is led by Principal Frank Tedesco and includes Adolfo Cuevas, Chris LeBlanc, Dennis Daly, and Hector Torres. If you would like to join the SBC in a tour of the Goodnow School in Marlborough, MA, please send an Email to Erin Linville, HPS Chief of Strategy.
Mount Vernon Group's recent building projects are listed below. All of these projects were completed on time or early, with final costs coming in at or under budget.
Harris Brook Elementary School in Ludlow, MA (opened Fall 2021)
Goodnow Brothers Elementary School in Marlborough, MA (opened Fall 2020)
Athol Community Elementary School in Athol, MA (opened Fall 2016)
Minnechaug Regional High School in Wilbraham, MA (opened Fall 2012)
Chicopee Comprehensive High School in Chicopee, MA (opened Fall 2008)
Chicopee High School in Chicopee, MA (opened Fall 2004)
Would the new middle school building result in a tax override or debt exclusion for citizens or businesses?
No it would not result in a tax override or debt exclusion for citizens or businesses. The City is exploring all options to pay for construction of a new middle school building within its operating budget. This project would not require a vote from citizens. The City Council would vote to approve the funds within the operating budget.
Would HPS make a financial commitment to this project?
As was discussed in 2019, HPS, DESE and the City of Holyoke have agreed to a $500,000* annual commitment, which HPS will redirect to the City and the City can use towards the bond for construction of the school. HPS is able to make this financial commitment due to operational savings that would be realized by closing the inefficient Peck building and replacing it with a more efficient building. (*In 2019, this commitment was stated to be $1 million, which was $500,000 per school. Since we are now pursuing only one new building, the financial commitment from HPS would be $500,000.)