Belchertown Day School eager for move to State School property

  • A rendering of the new Belchertown Day School facility being constructed at 90 Front St. in Carriage Grove, the multiuse neighborhood on the former Belchertown State School property. KUHN RIDDLE ARCHITECTS

Staff Writer
Saturday, February 22, 2020

BELCHERTOWN — Developments at the former Belchertown State School property have continued with a land sale to Belchertown Day School and the completion of a new road.

Belchertown Day School, currently located on State Street, will occupy an 8,600-square-foot early after-school and early childhood education center on two parcels at 90 Front St. in a new mixed-use neighborhood overseen by MassDevelopment and the Belchertown Economic Development and Industrial Corp. called Carriage Grove.

“It’s going to be our forever home,” said Pat Bruni, executive director of Belchertown Day School. The 43-year-old school rents its current facility, which is around 2,000 square feet, after moving from 51 State St. in 2017.

In addition to providing a larger, more permanent location, the new site will allow the school to add a second toddler classroom, expand its day care offerings and bring all of its programming under one roof. At the moment, the organization splits its school-age program between Swift River Elementary School in the morning and Chestnut Hill Community School in the afternoon and for summer camps.

Construction of the new facility began in December, and Bruni said the goal is to open next fall.

The Day School received a $1 million grant from the Children’s Investment Fund’s Early Education and Out of School Time Capital Fund to establish its new quarters, with additional financial support from Blue Hub Capital, the Children’s Investment Fund and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Facilities Program.

In a statement, Belchertown Town Administrator Gary Brougham said the new facility “will bring new opportunity to the site, create jobs, and add services to the town and economic returns to offset the significant demolition and infrastructure costs associated with redeveloping this Economic Target Area.”

MassDevelopment also recently completed building a 2,000-foot road leading to the Carriage Grove neighborhood.

Carriage Grove opened in December and is already home to assisted living community Christopher Heights. The neighborhood is also set to host Arcpoint Brewing Co. in the future, and a pedestrian and bicycle trail is also being developed.

For 70 years, the site was home to the Belchertown State School for the Feeble-Minded, an institution for children with developmental disabilities that was shut down in 1992 after decades of human rights violations were uncovered. A memorial for former residents of the State School is planned for the site, according to a MassDevelopement spokeswoman, which has been urged by some former residents and advocates.

The the Belchertown Economic Development and Industrial Corp. purchased the property from the state after its closing and has been attempting to redevelop the land to boost the town’s economy since this time, with MassDevelopment working as the group’s agent since 2012.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.