TURNERS FALLS — Franklin County Technical School Superintendent Richard Martin and Director of Career and Technical Education Matt West are pleased to report that a dedication ceremony took place last week for a new pavilion at the Swift River School.
On Thursday, Oct. 14, carpentry students from the Franklin County Technical School Classes of 2023 and 2024 officially dedicated the pavilion as part of a brief ceremony. Teachers and administrators from both schools were present. In keeping with a school tradition for all community construction projects at FCTS, a commemorative plaque was hung at the site which was designed by the school’s CAD-CAM students.
The event served as an official unveiling of the pavilion, which was completed at the end of the last school year. Students at the Swift River School have been using the pavilion since the start of this school year for a variety of recreational and educational purposes.
History of the Project
The construction of the pavilion took place last April through June, as students at FCTS were returning to full in-person learning. Then-freshmen and sophomore carpentry students were involved in the project, alternating weeks on the project. Freshmen manufactured the picnic tables and garden benches in the FCTS Carpentry Shop under the supervision of instructor Mike Therrien, while sophomores built the pavilion structure on the job site under the supervision of instructor Mike Nobrega.
Several pieces of the pavilion were pre-cut at the shop and transported to the job site, while students also worked out of multiple construction trailers at the job site.
“We try to make these projects as close to a real-world job site as possible to give students a feel for what this type of work is really like,” Nobrega said. “They were on site for four hours per day, and were grouped into construction crews with a rotating list of crew leaders. Students learn safety techniques, technical trade skills, and employability skills such as communication, teamwork, time management, and more.”
The project was one of the more comprehensive projects that underclassmen have completed in recent years, with the pavilion being built from the foundation up. Meanwhile, upperclassmen are building actual houses and plan to begin their third house this year. This particular project gave students an in-depth feel for this type of work, as they covered design and layout, rough framing, metal roofing, and the use and safety of various construction tools.
It also emphasized important safety protocols, as students took part in a two-day OSHA Construction Certification course to ensure they were familiar with how to properly use all of the equipment.
Student Bianca Serrell, who attended Swift River School as a student, said the project was a great way to give back to the community and help make something that can be enjoyed for years to come.
“This was my first big construction project, and we learned all about construction but also about teamwork and managing resources,” Serrell said. “It’s something we just couldn’t have learned about in a classroom setting.”
A total of 28 students took part in the project (12 freshmen and 16 sophomores). Freshmen included Tiffany Aubrey, Jase Bedard, Trevor Brunette, Cameren Candalaria, Jackson Crowell, Lillian Day, William Dziuba, Kyra Goodell, Alexander Knapp, Jaida Menard, Michael Shinall and Kaden Vescovi. Sophomores included Colin Adams, Jayson Andrews, Noah Ausikaitis, Alexander Crosby, James Jarvis, Henry Jones, Maria Labelle, Kaine Maratea, Elizabeth Matthews, Alastair McClure, Robert Murphy, Soriya Noeun, Bradley Normandin, Austin Pike, Sabrina Raymond and Bianca Serrell.
Special recognition goes to shop siblings Bianca Serrell and Zachary Serrell who donated a week of their summer break to assist Mr. Nobrega in the completion of the pavilion.
“This really was a perfect fit for our curriculum. It was tough to do these types of projects during hybrid learning, so once we went back in-person toward the end of last year we knew we wanted to get back to giving students these types of hands-on projects in the community,” Martin said. “This pavilion project was exactly what we look for, and the indication so far is that it’s been a huge success.”
The Swift River School had been looking to install a pavilion on school grounds for a few years, but it wasn’t until the school received funding through a local Big Y store in the amount of $5,000 that it became feasible. The school was able to match the donation, and then reached out to Franklin County Tech for assistance.
“We couldn’t have done this without the terrific work of the Franklin County Tech students and the support of the teachers and administrators,” Swift River School Principal Kelley Sullivan said. “We are thrilled with how much use we have already gotten out of the pavilion. People love it and we know it will be a wonderful addition to our school for years to come.”
So far this year the pavilion has not only been used for recreation but has also been incorporated into outdoor education and is used at lunchtime as well.
Nobrega said he’s been with the school for around 10 years, and this is the fourth community service project he’s overseen in New Salem. What made this project special was that it was a local school helping another school, and that some of the FCTS students involved were even graduates of the Swift River School.
“This project wouldn’t have worked unless every student stepped up to the plate and did their part,” said student Alexander Knapp. “It was such a cool experience to be able to make something like this for younger kids to enjoy. It’s like we got to be role models for them and show them what you can do with your education at a school like Franklin County Tech. Personally, I grew up in a woodworking family, and I can see myself doing this kind of work professionally one day, so it was just a great experience overall.”