SPENCER – While it took the approval of hundreds of voters, millions of dollars, architects, and lots of time, as ground was broken for the $111.6 million David Prouty restoration and addition, it was the current students who were given much of the credit.
Many of the officials who dug the ceremonial shovels into a sandbox near the football field Friday (Sept. 8, 2023), were quick to point out that none of the high school students filling the bleachers would ever attend classes in the new school.
And yet, it was those students, from Spencer and East Brookfield which comprise the district, who held signs, spoke poignantly at town meetings, and lobbied for the project. Now they deal daily with construction crews at their school who work to excavate, tear down walls, and rebuild, as they study inside, School Committee Chairperson Heather Messier said.
“Thank you for your sacrifices,” Messier said. “Try your best to embrace the chaos.”
David Prouty pride runs deep in this town. State Representatives Peter Durant and Donald Berthiaume are both graduates and they admitted it was bittersweet to see the gymnasium and other sections of the building torn down, both noted that the new facility is a testament to the pride in the district.
Michael Ethier, chairperson of the school building committee, said he ran for school committee as many of his friends and neighbors began sending their children to out-of-town schools because the district’s voters decided against fixing the school in 2012.
He ran through a timeline of the project starting with the 2018 letter of interest sent to the state to the groundbreaking on Friday.
Spencer Town Administrator Jeff Bridges watched as perhaps the biggest project in town was celebrated.
“This is the most important thing a community can do,” he said of the school addition and renovation.
James A. MacDonald, CEO of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, said the new school will provide great opportunities for the students and having two towns collaborate in doing “what’s best for the communities” is not always easy.
He paraphrased a quote from the late Salt Lake City Tribune reporter Dan Valentine telling the students, “a school is four walls with tomorrow inside.”
It will be three years when the project is finished and students can enjoy the new school as it opens for the 2026-2027 school year.