Williamsburg - The seven-year long effort to renovate and expand Williamsburg’s Anne T. Dunphy Elementary School took a giant step forward today when the Massachusetts School Building Authority Board of Directors authorized the Town to undertake a feasibility study, the next phase in the building process. The Town, with technical and financial assistance from the MSBA, can now begin to hire a design team to help the Town and the MSBA better understand the problems identified in the Town’s initial Statement of Interest and to explore the potential range of options to address these issues. Town meeting has already weighed in on this issue; this past June it voted to support the project by appropriating $60,000 toward the cost of designing these improvements.
“This is a great opportunity for the town to finally be able to move ahead with a project we have been working toward for a very long time,” said Selectboard Chair Dave Mathers. “This partnership with the state will provide both financial and technical assistance to make sure we get the high quality and efficient school building our children deserve. On behalf of the Board of Selectmen, I want to thank our own School Building Committee, whose work provided an important foundation for our MSBA application; the School Committee, who kept pushing the project and never got discouraged; and Fred Venne, who pulled together so much data and information, doing most of the legwork in submitting our application.”
State Representative Stephen Kulik echoed these sentiments: “Williamsburg deserves to have a modern, safe, and efficient elementary school to serve its students and the entire community. I am pleased that the Massachusetts School Building Authority has been so responsive and has voted to support the town’s effort to move The Dunphy School project forward with a commitment of state assistance. The school and town officials in Williamsburg have been terrific advocates for both the project and the interests of the taxpayers, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with them toward the successful completion of this project.”
The long-time Chair of the Williamsburg School Committee, which has long advocated for this project, was thrilled with the state’s action. “A newly renovated and expanded school will allow all of Williamsburg’s elementary children to be educated under one roof,” said Charlene Nardi. “The expansion of the Dunphy School, which will allow the consolidation of all of Williamsburg’s elementary school students into the same building, will provide a significant cost savings to the town. Updating the school will provide our students with a learning environment that is more in keeping with instruction and learning for the 21st Century.”
The MSBA Board’s vote comes after a recent visit to the school by the Authority’s Executive Director, Katherine Craven. The visit, organized by then Selectboard chair Jeffrey Ciuffreda and Representative Kulik, who have both worked tirelessly in support of this project, highlighted not only the existing condition of the Dunphy School, but also demonstrated to Ms Craven how this project advances other aspects of the state’s “Smart Growth” policies with its “downtown” location and integration into the fabric of the town center with its proximity to, and use of, the Meekins Library.
“The Massachusetts School Building Authority’s support for The Dunphy School project is wonderful news for Williamsburg and the school community,” said State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D – Pittsfield). “Dunphy’s students, parents and teachers will soon enjoy a state-of-the-art learning facility, and I look forward to seeing progress made on site.”
Renovation and expansion of the Dunphy School will, in the end, save the town money through the installation of more modern, energy efficient, heating, lighting and ventilation systems, and by providing the space to consolidate the classes being held in the Helen E. James School into the one building, a move that has the support of the Williamsburg School Committee.