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Tornado Damaged School Survives Sandy, Now Worried about Winter

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — John Foley knows Hurricane Sandy, if stronger, could have spelled disaster for the already tornado damaged Commonwealth Academy, which is on the site of the old MacDuffie School.

“I haven’t gotten a report yet from the maintenance personnel but it looks like everything is in tact as we left it yesterday,” said Foley who is Commonwealth Academy’s founder.

‘In tact’ is a relative term. Except for a few buildings, most on the campus have been boarded and covered with blue tarps since the June 2011 tornado. The tarps, which were meant to be temporary, are now torn and shredded, exposing damaged roofs and fireplaces to the elements. It was this way last october during the snowstorm, too.

“I think we’ve dodged more than one bullet here,” said Foley.

But how long will that luck hold out?

Repairs to the school are held up due to a continuing conflict with Trident Insurance Company over a settlement. The issue is over how much the insurance company wants to pay versus estimated repair costs which are upwards of $10 million according to Foley. Trident initially offered $2.5 million. Foley is waiting for their next offer.

“We expected the insurance company to do what they’re supposed to do which is to come with a timely settlement offer,” said Foley. “They haven’t done that. They’ve really delayed and delayed and delayed. We’re at the end of our rope in terms of how we’ll be able to protect this campus going into our second winter.”

The school now has 28 students with a goal of over a hundred once more buildings are repaired.

Trident Insurance Company doesn’t comment on pending claims.


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