School Furniture Heads to Jamaica (Worcester Telegram, 2013-01-24)

Tahanto Donates Before Demolition

The Worcester Telegram
Thursday, January 24, 2013

By Ken Cleveland, Correspondent

BOYLSTON, MA —  It was especially cold Wednesday morning, not an ideal time to be moving 1,200 desks, chairs and other items from a school about to be razed and loading them into containers for a trip to the Caribbean, where they will be used in a Jamaican school project.

As the temperature struggled to get beyond single digits, workers steadily moved the items from the old Tahanto Regional Middle/High School building, where it was at least a little warmer, to the ocean shipping containers. Hats and gloves, and steady movement, helped a little, but equipment such as cameras did not fare so well, and numb fingers did not help as organizers sought to document the project.

The effort came together at the last minute, with the contractor already blocking off a section of the old school to start abatement needed before demolition of the 50-year-old building, situated yards from where students now attend a brand new school.

Even after a recent community yard sale, the contractor, CTA, had hundreds of leftover items to dispose of, a mix of furniture and equipment that it now owned as part of the old school.

That led to an offhand comment last week to Deborah M. Shaer, a senior consultant for PMA, the owner’s project manager for the new school project.

She had only hours earlier been contacted by someone at IRN — The Recycling Network, about its mission of sending unneeded items overseas where they could be reused.

Within two days, everything was set up for Wednesday’s project.

But the Tahanto experience is not typical.

“The biggest thing is that it happened,” E. Dana Draper of IRN said. “The timing here was tight.”

Mr. Draper credited Ms. Shaer and PMA for coordinating the effort, which he said was “so unique. It was set up in 48 hours.”

“I am absolutely thrilled that we were able to pull this together and get this accomplished in such a small window of time,” Ms. Shaer said, adding that the school district, IRN and CTA “should be proud of working together and getting this done.”

She said the school district “has been very cognizant of incorporating into their new Tahanto building project as many elements as possible that benefit their communities, the environment and fellow school districts. This is another one of those beneficial elements able to be incorporated into our project.

“We at PMA and all the project participants are just so happy we could help a less fortunate school and we hope Tahanto’s contributions to the students of St. George’s College help them reach all of their education goals,” Ms. Shaer said.

Because it all came together so quickly, advance planning didn’t happen and some items could not be taken because they were already part of the contractor’s contract.

But that left plenty of items that could be used, and through the Food for the Poor organization, they will have a new life at the new St. George’s College in Kingston, Jamaica.

In Jamaica, a “college” has a different meaning, in this case referring to a 1,450-student school serving Grades 1 through 12.

The chairs and desks will outfit a proper classroom, but even the little things are appreciated.

Six lacrosse sticks left behind, Mr. Draper said, will be among the highlights.

“They just don’t get them where they’re going,” he said of things such as sports equipment and musical instruments.

When the items arrive, IRN plans to follow the donation, and Tahanto students may build a connection with the Jamaican school.

“This initiative nicely incorporates the district’s desire to demonstrate a green environment and incorporate recycling technologies into the project,” Superintendent of Schools Nadine G. Ekstrom said. “We are proud to know this incorporation involved our salvaged equipment and furnishings from the old Tahanto building. We are also proud of the fact that we can assist other children in less fortunate countries in promoting a more positive learning environment than they currently have.”

The cost of the effort is being shared, with the district and CTA each picking up half the cost, and PMA forgoing its usual fee for contracting with IRN.

Ms. Shaer said this also worked to trim costs.

Draper said the recycling effort, besides making use of the items, generally is about 30 percent cheaper than disposing of them.

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