Middle School Redesign

New Middle School Under Consideration

Holyoke Public Schools is in the middle of reimagining its middle school program to strengthen educational learning opportunities for students in grades 6-8. HPS is hindered by the infrastructure of its school buildings and inconsistent grade-level groupings in its 11 schools serving grades PK-8. Grade-level groupings will be standardized in HPS schools by Fall 2023.

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. 

Holyoke Public Schools’ proposed middle school building project recently got the green light to move on to the next phase last week, after the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) voted April 27 to partner with Holyoke to conduct a feasibility study for replacing the William R. Peck School. As part of its invitation for Feasibility Study, the MSBA voted to proceed into the schematic design phase to replace the existing Peck School with a new facility to be built on the site of the existing school to serve students in grades 6-8.

On Tuesday, February 15, 2022, members of the Holyoke City Council voted 9-4 in favor of funding the $475,000 feasibility study. The City Council then sought approval from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to conduct the feasibility study, which will determine the costs and scope of the proposed new school.

MSBA pays for a portion of school construction costs, which is why Holyoke needs MSBA’s permission to proceed with plans for building a new school. If the MSBA approves, the new building would allow HPS to fully align its reimagined middle school experience into two middle school buildings, including a new energy-efficient building to replace the existing Peck Middle School.

 

History

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 sight-lines. 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 district’s Eligibility Period for a new school has begun. 

As part of this process, former Holyoke Acting Mayor Murphy appointed a School Building Committee, which meets once a month via Zoom. Meetings can also be viewed on Channel 15. The recordings can be on the Holyoke Media video archive. The next meetings will begin at 6 p.m. on:

  • April 4
  • May 5
  • June 2

Members of the public who wish to submit public comments can email Erin Brunelle at erinfontainebrunelle@gmail.com, 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 contact Erin Linville.

Voting School Building Committee Membership (as of 11/30/21)

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 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)
  • Lori Belanger, Chief Procurement Officer for the City of Holyoke
    (SBC member who is MCPPO certified)
  • Erin Brunelle*+, School Committee Member, Realtor
    (School Committee Member)
  • Sal Canata+, Holyoke STEM Principal
    (School principal)
  • Jackie Glasheen*+, Executive Director of School Leadership
    (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 the community with construction experience)
  • Jessica Perella+, Parent and UMass Student
    (Member of the community with community development experience)
  • Peter Tallman*+, City Councilor, Vice-Chair of the Finance Committee, Retired Letter Carrier
    (Local budget official or member of local finance Committee)
  • David Yos+, Tax Preparer
    (Member of the community with finance/accounting experience
  • Kathy Ortiz, Gear Up Advisor & Site Supervisor  
    (Member of the community with community development experience)
  • Kenia Davila *+, Caseworker 
    (Member of the community with community development experience)
  • Debra Vega +, Co-Owner & Dance Instructor  
    (Member of the community with community development and business experience)
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