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Council Approves Revised MGM Springfield Design

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield City Council approved MGM Springfield’s revised site plan Monday, voting 12-1 in favor of the $950 million casino project and changes that include the elimination of a 25-story hotel tower. Council President Michael Fenton was the sole vote against the altered proposal. MGM will replace the initially planned 25-story hotel tower on State Street with a six-story, 250-room hotel on Main Street. In another change, MGM’s host-community agreement with Springfield allows MGM to move about 54 proposed market-rate apartments from the casino grounds to a location near the casino. MGM Springfield has begun demolition and site preparation for the casino development, which is expected to open in September 2018 and bring thousands of construction and casino jobs to the city.

 

UMass Announces Progress on Renovations

BOSTON — The University of Massachusetts now spends three out of four capital dollars on renovation and repair and has significantly reduced its maintenance backlog in recent years, President Marty Meehan said this week. In a letter submitted to state government leaders, Meehan noted that UMass has gone through a building boom over the past 20 years, largely in response to enrollment and faculty-innovation booms, but said the university over the past decade has placed a significant emphasis on maintenance and renovation. “The building that has taken place across the UMass system has been critical to our ability to step forward and emerge as a great public university. While we have constructed new facilities, we have also recognized the need to repair facilities that aged over the years,” he noted. One of the fastest-growing universities in the nation, the five-campus UMass system experienced a 44% surge in enrollment in the past two decades and built academic buildings and student housing to accommodate the increase of 22,000 students. It also constructed laboratories and other facilities needed as it emerged as a global research university. But UMass also recognized that it had to repair as well as build, Meehan said, and has been guided in its efforts by Sightlines, a company that advises more than 400 colleges and universities across the nation and in Canada on facilities-management issues. In his letter to state government leaders, President Meehan said recent reports from Sightlines show that, between 2009 and 2015, UMass Amherst reduced its project backlog from $2 billion to $1.5 billion, achieving a 25% decrease. UMass Amherst saw deferred maintenance decrease significantly during this period, declining from $869 million to $596 million, for an even larger percentage reduction of 31%. This occurred at a time when backlog at public universities in the U.S. grew by nearly 20%, according to Sightlines. Meanwhile, Sightlines calculates that the UMass system is on course to reduce its current $1.45 billion in deferred maintenance by nearly 40% to $900 million by fiscal year 2019, when the university’s current capital plan concludes. It is also projected that the backlog for the UMass system will decline from $3.2 billion to $2.26 billion over the next three years. Backlog refers to those facilities projects that should be handled over the next decade, and deferred maintenance is the term for projects that need to be addressed within three years. “We are not declaring victory or minimizing the work that lies ahead, but I think it’s important to note that UMass has charted this prudent course,” Meehan said. Added Victor Woolridge, chairman of the UMass board of trustees, “the University of Massachusetts has taken the responsible course in addressing the needs of buildings that in some cases are 40-plus years old. We have taken on issues that we needed to confront in order to be able to provide really good students with the high-quality facilities they need to be able to compete in the contemporary environment.” Among other key points in Meehan’s letter, nearly three-quarters of the current UMass capital program is dedicated to projects that will reduce the five-campus system’s project backlog; since 2008, UMass has included a maintenance reserve for every new building constructed by the university; and enrollment at UMass has increased by 44.5% over the past 20 years, soaring from 51,044 to 73,761 students. Of the 22,717 students UMass has added, 14,673 are in-state students, while out-of-state students increased by slightly more than 8,000.

Mass Insight Education Honors 11 Area Teachers

BOSTON — Eleven teachers in Western Mass. have been honored with Mass Insight Education’s Partners in Excellence Award for helping students take advanced-placement (AP) courses with success as they prepare for college. The winners include Melissa Ferris and Patrice Latrell, Taconic High School, Pittsfield; Carla Comeau and Jennifer Gaudette, Pittsfield High School; Jill Keenan, Jennifer Levesque, and Tawnya Tiskus, Westfield High School; Michelle Fontana, Christopher Rea, and Diana Sands, Ludlow High School; and Marissa Lapointe, Springfield Central High School. The award recognizes 54 Massachusetts AP teachers for their outstanding contributions to student achievement and their dedication to college success during the 2014-15 academic year. The teachers were selected out of a pool of more than 600 AP teachers who participated in Mass Insight Education’s AP STEM and English program. “The teachers Mass Insight supports in AP partnerships across the state are the backbone of the schools’ role preparing students for college success,” said William Guenther, president, CEO, and founder of Mass Insight Education. “We’re very pleased to recognize the AP teacher partners who have produced especially outstanding results with their high-school students.” Mass Insight Education’s content directors selected the teachers based on their ability to increase their students’ access to AP classes, their students’ improved performance on the AP exams, and their students’ resulting college readiness. The award recipients will be honored at Mass Insight Education’s Partners in Excellence Award Celebration on Tuesday, April 5 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Seaport Hotel in Boston. Eric Waldo, executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative, will be the keynote speaker. Each award winner will be recognized for his or her achievement and will receive a check for $1,000. Mass Insight Education (MIE) is a national nonprofit dedicated to improving student achievement and increasing college success through district restructuring and rigorous academic programs. This is particularly important within the urban ‘gateway’ communities in which MIE operates, as youth from economically challenged communities are not as typically afforded the personalized, high-caliber instruction that is provided in the AP environment. Mass Insight Education’s AP STEM and English program encourages more students to take AP classes in an effort to increase their confidence while providing them with the academic skills they need to succeed in post-secondary education. The AP STEM and English program is a key part of MIE’s innovative College Success Campaign. Annually, more than 10,000 students at more than 75 Mass Insight Education partner schools take part in the program. These schools typically double or triple their enrollment in AP classes, and double the number of students earning qualifying scores on the AP exam. To help students prepare for the AP exams, Mass Insight Education supports them in several ways, including hosting a series of weekend classes. The goal is to have students take an AP class as an introduction to the level of work they will need to do in college. The hope is that the experience inspires many to enroll in college who previously thought themselves incapable of that work. Getting a qualifying score earns them college credit, thus allowing them to finish college more quickly and at a lower cost. Statistics show that 78% of Mass Insight Education students who took at least one AP math, science, or English course in high school attended a two- or four-year college after graduating high school. Ninety-three percent continued with two years of college, and 82% either graduated or are still in school four years after graduating from high school. Mass Insight Education also provides extra training for AP instructors to strengthen their teaching skills.

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