By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – A significant milestone was reached Feb. 14 at the building site of the new Major Howard W. Beal Elementary School. The placement of the last steel beam was commemorated with a Topping Off ceremony. The beam was signed by dignitaries and interested parties for posterity.
An estimated 50 people gathered on the frigid day, including Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, State Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury), selectmen, School Committee members, School Superintendent Dr. Joseph Sawyer, Town Manager Kevin Mizikar and Angela Snell, Superintendent of Public Facilities & Parks.
The ceremony can be traced back to Norwegian tradition which calls for the beam to be adorned by a small evergreen tree and a flag on opposite ends, according to Jack McCarthy, executive director of the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
Selectman and Beal Building Committee Chair Jim Kane presided over a brief program at the event.
“Today is another great milestone for the project; we are currently trending under budget and are currently trending on or just ahead of schedule,” he reported.
He added that the tree signifies good luck and the flag that adorned the beam is one of a series that will fly at intervals throughout the construction process.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito noted how proud she was that this site was chosen at 214 Lake St., which once housed at the then Glavin Center, a place for learning that served people with different abilities.
“It’s a great project because of the collaboration, the leadership at the local level, the taxpayers standing up and saying – ‘yes, we value the school program and we will put our money behind it,’” she stated.
Kane confirmed that the school will retain the Beal name and that historic architectural elements of the current Beal School will be retained and incorporated into the new building.
Board Chair Maurice DePalo recognized those that lead the effort to fund this project, notably Selectman Beth Casavant and School Committee member Jason Palitsch and Kane who spearheaded efforts to secure the site.
“For me it’s not only been an educational experience but a privilege to work with the members of the Beal Building Committee,” remarked School Committee Chair Sandy Fryc.
Speaking on behalf of State Senator Michael Moore (D-Millbury) who was unable to attend, Rep. Hannah Kane said they are both proud to represent Shrewsbury.
She thanked the construction crew for working so hard in the cold winter conditions and said that they would not be where they are now without their diligence.
The school is expected to welcome its first students in the fall of 2021.