School Year Left Intact; Construction Will Wait

Posted: June 17, 1999

SPRINGFIELD — When school district officials suggested shutting down classes three days ahead of schedule at Enfield Elementary, they said it was a practical plan to get the jump on a big, dirty construction project at the school at Church and Paper Mill Roads.

``The construction company said they needed all the time they could [get],'' Superintendent William Leary said. ``If we had to disrupt the schedule, I'd rather do it at the end of the year than the beginning.''

The district wanted to use the time to clear out the classrooms, Leary said. But some parents balked, saying six days was too short a notice to make alternative plans for child care.

Tuesday night, the school board split on a vote to accommodate the construction company's request, effectively sinking Leary's recommendation. The children will stay in class through next Thursday, as will the district's students.

The news came as a relief to some working parents.

``We were pleased the school board listened to our concerns,'' said Cynthia Kreilick, co-president of the Enfield Parent Teachers Association.

After two years in the development stage, the district approved plans this year for a $5.5 million renovation of the 50-year-old Enfield School. Work started in April. Much of the heavy construction, including asbestos removal in some areas, will take place this summer, Leary said.

``I thought [ending classes early] was a reasonable idea, but parents felt otherwise,'' Leary said yesterday. ``And as a superintendent, you learn to be flexible.''

Though the last three days of school will be only half-days, some parents at the Tuesday night board meeting said receiving short notice about closing early had left them scrambling for help. The district offered no alternative child-care plans for working parents, officials said.

Still, Leary said, claims by some working parents that the district was being insensitive to their needs were unfounded. He cited before- and after-school day-care programs already in place and flexible hours for parent conferences.

``That criticism is unfounded and unfair,'' he said. ``We are user-friendly.''

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