Independence Day At Greenfield Center School

Adam Orth, Recorder StaffGREENFIELD, MA (04/12/2004)

Wednesday was Independence Day at Greenfield Center School. That’s the day the K-8 school finalized purchasing its buildings for about $700,000.

“The staff is celebrating at my house, right now. As we speak, we are all here,” said Executive Director Laura Baker, when reached by phone at around 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Established in 1981 to test innovative teaching techniques developed by the Northeast Foundation for Children, the school originated Responsive Classroom approaches used locally and throughout the country.

It separated from the foundation in 2002 and has been planning for its future ever since. It considered but rejected the possibility of moving, which led to the decision to buy the buildings from the foundation.

“We’ve been in the black for two years. Certainly the bank thinks we’re a good risk. I do, too,” Baker said.

Helping the school with its planning work is an anonymous donation that three years ago started covering the $30,000 annual cost of a part-time development director for five years.

“That’s one of the most wonderful things,” said Baker, who adds she and others have no idea who made the donation.

The school has been located at 71 Montague City Road since 1988. It now owns the Brick Building, formerly the Abercrombie School; the Finer Building, which was built in 1991; and the foundation’s current office building, which is known as the Yellow House.

The foundation has two years to find a new home, Baker said.

She said a capital campaign is planned to raise money needed to renovate the buildings, both to improve them and to create more classroom space.

Currently, the school has 144 students in Grades K-8 and in a post-graduate program that follows eighth-grade. In the next few years, it plans to gradually increase to 156 students.

Previously, a lack of classroom space prevented the school from reaching 156 students, which Baker said would stabilize the school’s population to about 18 students for each grade.

Parents and students interested in learning more about the school can attend its annual open house on April 15, from 6 to 8 p.m. Tours and examples of student work will be available.

The school is a nonprofit and has scholarships available that are based on financial need.

Weather permitting, there will be a schoolwide celebration of the purchase on May 1. Billed as a working celebration, events planned include painting inside walls, planting a new garden and adding on to the playground structure.

Additionally, children and adults will form a singing circle around the school.

“Then, there will be a potluck dinner and a dance,” said Baker. “It’s just very exciting, and we are so worth it.”

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