Westfield State Celebrates History and Future of Juniper Park School
Westfield State University’s Juniper Park School begins a major transition this summer as it prepares for a fundamental overhaul that will see the building transform into classrooms and fine and performing arts space for university students.
“We are grateful for the more than 47 years we have been able to partner with the City of Westfield and the Westfield Public Schools through Juniper Park,” said Elizabeth H. Preston, president, Westfield State University. “The transition from a neighborhood school to a university facility is bittersweet, but we fully anticipate the re-purposing of the space into a performing arts and education center will benefit the entire community.”
An open house celebrating the school’s history and its future will be held this Sunday, June 14 from 2-4 p.m. The school will be open for alumni, neighbors and friends to tour. Refreshments will be served and a slide show will be shown in the school’s theater.
Juniper Park School was named after the space it is situated on - the former Juniper Park, which was added to the City of Westfield’s park system in 1934. Westfield State began building on the site in 1967. The nearly 60,000 square foot laboratory or “lab” school (meaning it was affiliated with a college or university), was built to support teacher training and was officially dedicated on June 1, 1969. The school has had only four principals in its history, beginning with Tom McManus, 1968 – 1996; Jim Kane, 1996 – 2011; Arlene Speigel, 2011 – 2014; and Alison Hamilton, 2014 to present.
At various points in its history, Juniper Park has been more than an elementary school. University classes were held in the building during the 70’s and Westfield State’s Nursing and Allied Health program has maintained offices and classrooms in the building since 2009. It has also been home to the community when needed. Most recently during the historic October 2011 snowstorm, Westfield State opened up Juniper Park for a week providing shelter, food, and a warm place to stay when many were without electricity for extended periods.
Once the K-12 school year is complete, Westfield State will begin Phase 1 construction with approximately $1.9 million in planning and preliminary renovations to school. This will include, among other things, transitioning facilities to meet the needs of adult-sized individuals. The funds were provided as part of the space planning allocation from the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) that include the new science center and Wilson Hall backfill plus university funds. The university has hired a design firm, Dietz and Company Architects from Springfield, Mass., in consultation with Cambridge Seven Associates of Cambridge, Mass., to study the layout and space at Juniper Park in anticipation of full occupancy in 2016. Phase 2 renovations will be more extensive and will fully transition the space to a Fine and Performing Arts Center.
“Our fine and performing arts programming has become a true connecting point between the campus and the community, but as our curriculum has evolved we have not been able to meet the needs of departments that physically require space in order to teach, learn, and study,” said Ken Lemanski, vice president for Advancement and University Relations.
The university anticipates the Fine and Performing Arts Center will serve as a venue for performance, student education, and community programming.