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Pontoosuc School

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Pontoosuc School (1920-1981)

For many years, youth from the north end of Pittsfield, Massachusetts were educated at Pontoosuc School.  The school was located at 1250 North Street in Pittsfield.

The original Pontoosuc School

The original Pontoosuc School was built in 1884.  It had a capacity of one hundred and sixty students, six classrooms and was built for eighteen thousand dollars.  It would soon prove inadequate in size. 

Pontoosuc School pin

In 1919, construction began on a new Pontoosuc School.  On October 8, 1921, the new Pontoosuc School was turned over to the City of Pittsfield in a ceremony which included Mayor W.M. Flynn and Superintendent of Schools J.F. Gannon. The 1921 Municipal Register of the City of Pittsfield stated:  "The new Pontoosuc School is now being used.  There are ten rooms which will accommodate four hundred and twenty pupils.  The school possesses a fine auditorium and is considered a very modern building in structure and equipment.  It will soon be filled to capacity, however, and cannot be depended upon to care for many overflow pupils from other crowded buildings." 

Principal Joseph P. McGovern (1909-1996)

Miss Lucy Mangan presided as Pontoosuc School's principal from 1938-1963.  She subsequently retired and was replaced by experienced educator Joseph P. McGovern.  Robert J. Thomas became principal upon Mr. McGovern's retirement in 1975. 

Pontoosuc School eighth-grade graduation ceremony; 1953

In 1948 enrollment was four hundred and fifty-three students, of which one hundred eighty-one were in junior high school.  Due to the severely over crowded conditions, the second floor auditorium was converted into an additional three classrooms, bringing the total to thirteen.  The year 1954 saw Pontoosuc School revert to an elementary school as it had been originally designed.  Three hundred and fifty students were enrolled.  Also, the insufficient 193' X 355' parcel on which the school was originally built was supplemented by the City of Pittsfield's additional purchase of some eight acres behind the school.

The Berkshire Eagle: May 14, 1971

Pontoosuc School sixth-grade graduation ceremony; 1971

Pontoosuc School sixth-grade graduation ceremony; 1971

In the mid 1970s much of the beautiful architecture and fine woodwork on the second floor of Pontoosuc Elementary School was gutted to create an open classroom configuration, popular at the time.  Left instead was a large uninspiring space without walls, a sea of cheap commercial carpeting and an industrial type suspended ceiling, far lower than the original ceiling.  This controversial concept soon lost favor as the "schools without walls" led to increased noise and distractions which negatively impacted learning. 

Pontoosuc School
Mr. Richard Robert's sixth grade class; 1970-1971

Potential disaster struck in April 1976 when a serious fire broke out in the basement boiler room.  The fire resulted from the careless storage of combustibles.  The school suffered heavy smoke damage and the destruction of two first floor classrooms.  Fortunately, two patroling Pittsfield police officers discovered smoke pouring from the building and called in the fire department before the school was totally lost.  Students attended several other Pittsfield elementary schools until the damage was repaired. 

Original Pontoosuc School classroom bell

Pittsfield's smaller neighborhood schools would soon find themselves endangered.  Cost cutting measures, declining enrollment, lack of gymnasiums and new handicap access regulations led to most of them being closed.  By 1995, Pittsfield had just eight elementary schools left from the original fourteen.   The majority were sold for a fraction of their value.  Some were demolished, while a few found new life as housing or business spaces.  Pontoosuc School, along with four other Pittsfield neighborhood schools, closed in 1981.  Their school bells rang for the very last time.  The building and accompanying acreage was sold for $50,000 and today is the site of a plastics firm.

This page is dedicated to the memory of:
Mr. Joseph P. McGovern
Mrs. Rena Pizza
Miss Helen Brennan
Miss Mary Conroy
Mrs. Ruth Nesbit Lenhoff
Miss Irene Gallipeau
Mr. Robert "Bob " Hood
Mr. Zigmund "Ziggy" Zegarowski
Mrs. Frances "Frannie" Gavin
Mrs. June Loehr

Frank J. Leskovitz