Breathing new life into the North School

North School on Main Street in North Springfield.
North School on Main Street in North Springfield. Photo by Jo Robbins

N. SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – The North School Preservation Society, a nonprofit created for the sole purpose of purchasing the North School at 49 Main Street, has a mission statement that reads “…to protect and preserve the property for recreational uses and as a park for citizens of North Springfield and visitors.”

The school was closed in 1984. At a town meeting in March 2010, voters authorized the transfer of the school and its five-acre open space to the NSPS. The sale was final Nov. 22, 2011 and the group of seniors who are this organization have been painstakingly working to keep the property open and available for the community.

George Keeler repairing windows
George Keeler repairing windows. Photo provided by the North School Preservation Society

The upper and lower fields have been in continuous use for over a century as a public park, playground, and sports field. The warming hut, which is heated in the winter, is used by the Boy Scouts and sports teams for meetings and when the lower field is flooded for skating, there is a box of ice skates for anyone who needs them to use and return.

There are a lot of changes being made to the school the old-fashioned way, with elbow grease and sweat equity. The peeling plywood that was originally put up to cover many broken windows is slowly being removed and the panes repaired and replaced one by one. Shrubs have been trimmed and manicured and the handicap access has seen cracks repaired, the bottom ramp replaced, and the railing sanded and painted. The flagpole at the front of the school was repainted and tree branches hiding it from view were trimmed back.

The school suffered a spate of vandalism in 2019 and 2020 that prompted the need for security cameras on all sides of the building and new signs are posted with the park rules and caution to use at your own risk. The cameras proved to be invaluable.

David Hall painting flagpole
David Hall painting flagpole. Photo provided by North School Preservation Society

The building has been unheated for more than a decade. After October, the school is icebox cold and working inside is impossible. President Richard Willard and Vice President Francine Provost, a skilled gardener who has been faithfully tending the gardens out front for years, both said they would like some day to see the building become a community center, an ideal use as the grounds represent the only green space in North Springfield. But raising funds to do the large renovations will require an infusion of cash from grants, donations, or a benefactor. A community center may seem like a pipe dream for a building that at the least needs a new heating system and repair to the slate roof.

Inside the school is a veritable treasure trove of donated items including antiques and collectibles offered for sale from May to October at monthly tag sales. Here is where the NSPS joins the growing list of businesses affected by Covid-19. There were no tag sales this year and the nonprofit relies completely on income from the tag sales to pay its expenses. In trying to accommodate the “new normal,” the group offers shopping at the school when members are on site or by appointment. Social distancing and masks are required.

In celebration of all its hard work, the NSPS will hold a flag dedication ceremony Oct. 24 at 1 p.m. where a new American flag and a state of Vermont flag, donated by members Sen. Dick McCormack and his wife Cindy Willard Metcalf, will be raised on the newly refurbished flagpole. There will be a raffle and the public is welcome.

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