Exterior of Greylock Elementary School - photo credit: iberkshires.com

North Adams School Building Committee OKs Ed Profile, Enrollment

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff

04:08AM / Friday, November 20, 2020

A special education 'room' at Greylock School
A special education 'room' at Greylock School. The education profile calls for more and more suitable space for services at the 60-year-old school. More information here. 

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Greylock School staff have a wish list of priorities for a renovated school that will provide space for programs, privacy for consultations, areas for gatherings, access to technology and the preservation of the beloved courtyard. 

"Our subgroup really took some time and said, OK, what what do we need for the future? What are the things we want to offer for meeting the needs of future learners?" Principal Sandra Cote told the School Building Committee on Tuesday.
Cote's education profile and design enrollment projections for the proposed school project were approved by the committee. Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Roberts-Morandi said the documents were expected to be submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority by the end of the month. 
The school district is in the preliminary stages of a building project; a vote to fund a feasibility plan and MSBA invitation would move it to the next stage. 
Greylock is the last of the city's four schools to be considered for renovation. The building has not been significantly altered for nearly 60 years. 
Cote said the subcommittee developing the education profile had prioritized space for full and half-day prekindergarten. 
"They also felt very strongly that we needed a common space in between grade-level classrooms that can be used for those pullout services of speech and language reading intervention, so that students aren't traveling through the entire building and actually losing time on learning in order to get the interventions they need," she said. 
The envisioned a layout where two classrooms could share a common area and four classrooms would share a teacher office space. This would facilitate services and offer private space for consultations. An estimated eight rooms would be needed for such services as special education physical therapy, Title One and English language learners, as well as office space. Three special education teachers currently share one large classroom. 
With a growing focus on STEAM, or science, technology, engineering, arts and math curriculums, a renovated school would also provide a music room (lessons and storage are currently on the stage in the cafeteria), and rooms for vocal instruction and art. 
"We talked about the fact that that North Adams is a hub for the arts, and that the partnerships that we have with the area museums has been going on for such a long time," Cote said. "So we want space built to really nurture this connection that we have."
A modern media center, regulation gym, possible auditorium for school gatherings, updated cafeteria, medical suite and central office area were also on the profile. 
Cote said the auditorium idea had surprised her but that some of the members of the subcommittee really felt that the ability to hold events as a school community was an important part of school.
"The other big thing I want to draw your attention to right here was the design of a social emotional suite," she said. "Now more than ever, we're having children of trauma that are entering our schools. And we really felt like if we could design something where we could have the school adjustment counselor and the Student Support Center, and possibly even the medical suite, all kind of connected in one area that we would be able to offer some really wraparound services."
Another aspect of that is a family center attached but separate from the school that could service the community at large. 
"We could create partnerships with families to aid in transition for our younger students, we could have continuing education for our older students or students and parents of families that are coming in," Cote said. 
The subcommittee also came up with ideas for community outreach, including surveys, focus group meetings and videos of what the school looks like. 
"There's a huge population of this community that attended Greylock School and their visions of what Greylock School looked like when they were little, I'm sure are wonderful visions, but maybe not be the reality of what it is today," she said. 
It will be smaller population attending the school in the future. Built during a period when school population was booming, Greylock would be renovated for both a modern education and a declining population. 
The school district has seen a drop of more than 200 students over the past decade; enrollment is expected to decline by another 28 percent over the coming decade. 
These numbers are based on historical data, building trends, birth rates and a range of other data. On the other hand, the region has been seeing a slight uptick in new residents that may stall some of the decline and Roberts-Morandi said just the building of a new school is expected to bring back about 30 students now attending out of district. 
"In addition, we have to look at student and family migration patterns that occur as a result of a new building," she said. "So when we built Colegrove Park Elementary, there was a noted increase in home sales to families, which immediately impacted the enrollment of school and class size." 
Committee member Richard Alcombright, who had been mayor during the Colegrove project, the numbers looked very real to him but wondered if they were comparable to what fellow committee member Benjamin Lamb was seeing in his position at 1Berkshire. 
Lamb said it was a realistic model to what the Berkshire County Education Task Force and Berkshire Regional Planning Commission had been projecting for some time. But he did note the influx of new residents over the past few years and a potential pandemic mini-baby boom. 
"When you're talking about this current COVID landscape, and we are seeing an in-migration of people, broad spectrum of ages and demographic groups, some families, some aren't," he said. "But you know, just from a birthing lens, I see quite a few people that are announcing that they're having children in May of 2021. ... 
"So when you look at that 2030 trajectory, I think 2020 is going to be a big kind of dropper of chaos into any projections."