Saturday, May 13, 2017

North Schoolers elect top officers

On Tuesday, May 9th, the North School Preservation Society elected Richard Willard as their president and Francine Provost as their vice-president. Seated in the photo with them is volunteer Marion Harlow.

The organization had been without a president for over a year and the vice-president, Bill Hannah, died this past March.

Willard is the son of Jean Willard, the founder of the organization who also passed away in March, at the age of 90.  She had a long history of serving on North School committees dating back to age 18.  Provost is a past president of the current group.  A master gardener, she had intended to be nothing more than the volunteer front lawn flower gardener when she first got involved.

The non-profit North School Preservation Society was formed to save the North School property from private development. The five acres of open space, located in the very heart of the North Springfield village, has been in continuous use for over a century as a public park, playground, sports field and ice skating rink.

On Town Meeting Day March 2, 2010, the voters of Springfield authorized the transfer of the property from the School District to the Society by a vote of 1676 to 401.  A year later, by a vote of 1056 to 522,  the voters chose to continue the property tax exempt status for the new owners that the property had under School District ownership for over 100 years.  The transfer finally took place on November 22, 2011.

The school house was constructed in 1908 and served as elementary school for the children of North Springfield for more than 70 years. It was closed as a public school in 1980, mainly because declining birth rates made it possible to save money by transfering all the North Springfield children to Springfield schools.  Also, a new runway at Hartness State Airport located only a quarter mile north changed the main flight path to directly over the school, a fact that did not sit well with the School District's insurer.

When first built on land donated by the neighboring Parker family, the schoolhouse only had four rooms.  Then in 1938, an addition was added on to the rear of the building, effectively doubling the size of the building.

For the future, the Society would like to see the school restored and become a community center.  There is an auditorium and stage upstairs and the classrooms could be used for adult classes such as aerobics and art classes.  But first, a lot of money will be needed to renovate the building and bring it up to modern code.  They are looking for a volunteer experienced with researching and writing grants.  The group raises over two thousand dollars a year through fundraiser yard sales but most of that goes to pay the property and liability insurance bill due every November.

Anyone is welcome to attend the NSPS monthly meetings. They are held the first Tuesday of each month beginning at 6:30pm.  Those with an interest in volunteering are especially encouraged to check it out. For more information, visit their website at http://nsps.awardspace.us .


Three of the earliest teachers at North School, Ed Kendall, the school principal,  taught 7th & 8th grade; Amy Burditt taught 1st & 2nd grade; Clara Heald taught 3rd & 4th grade.  Today, Mrs. Heald's daughter Marion Harlow at age 97 is an active volunteer in the North School Preservation Society.

For more on the history of North School, go to:   http://nsps.awardspace.us/history.html .




   

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