WILLIAMSTOWN -- School district officials think they've hit upon a "significant game changer" to get Mount Greylock Regional High School (MGRHS) over the hurdle with the state authority that holds the keys to a new, or majorly renovated, school at 1781 Cold Spring Rd.
Regionalization of district schools to a preschool through grade 12 format offers this promise, district Superintendent Rose Ellis said after a public meeting Wednesday between Jack McCarthy, executive director of the Massachusetts School Build ing Authority (MSBA), and the district's School Building Committee.
The district has applied for a $35,000 grant to cover the cost of looking into the prospect -- one that would consolidate all of its schools' budgets into one and likewise make operation more central.
Perhaps, too, regionalization could bolster the sort of collaborative atmosphere within the district and community at large that McCarthy -- before roughly 75 local residents who attended Wednesday's meeting -- placed atop his list of things to do to get one's school on the MSBA's radar and into their $500 million annual school building assistance program.
That and money, of course -- which Ellis said regionalization also promises. MSBA protocol dictates upping its contribution to a project by six percent, up from 2013's base rate of 52.69 percent, if the district in question is regionalized.
If Mount Greylock is accepted into the program, it
"It's an opportune time to do something that's been talked about for 40 years," Ellis said Wednesday. "To tie the two [regionalization and the building project] together would mean amazing cost savings."
The building, erected in 1960 and added to in 1968, is outdated and badly in need of care or replacement. Inade quate science labs; air quality concerns do to an outdated and malfunctioning ventilation system; massive energy inefficiency due to lack or absence of insulation and excessive windows and doors to the outside; non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act; mold and ice issues; and outdated wiring and fire detection systems are just some of the concerns.
Wednesday's meeting followed McCarthy's tour of the building, which saw he and Ellis observing these various shortcomings along with other school and district officials.
At the meeting, McCarthy gave his impressions and offered advice to the district.
He complimented the district's Building Committee, calling it the right mixture of people: Architects, a research engineer, contractors, members of the regional school committee and others, suggesting that a custodian also be included.
Again, McCarthy stressed the importance of broad community support and readiness to commit funds, but also said the district's application needs to "make a good case" that doesn't "paint a dire picture."
McCarthy compared the authority's application process to a campaign, and said Wed nesday's community turnout -- mostly comprised of parents of young Williamstown and Lanesborough students -- spoke well of it.
"I've got to say I'm im pressed by the number of people here for a Wednesday in the middle of the day," Mc Carthy said. "It's certainly shown me something."
He also credited four district officials for coming to Boston to attend the MSBA's Nov. 14 meeting, despite their school's absence from the meeting's agenda.
"The fact that they drove all the way out to Boston with no guarantee of being able to talk to anyone really showed the dedication of the people out here to this project," McCarthy said.
McCarthy also added, however, that his visit shouldn't be viewed as more than that.
"I'm not making any commitment because I can't," McCarthy said.
The district will again submit a statement of intent to the MSBA on Jan. 9, as they have since 2005, this one written to reflect what officials perceive as better knowledge of the system and a different atmosphere in the community.
"Our level of readiness has changed significantly," district Chair Carrie Green said. "We're a very different community now."
If Mount Greylock is chosen by the MSBA, the communities will each vote on whether to proceed to the next step: a feasibility study into the project. The study runs roughly $1 million and will decide whe ther the project will be a renovation or a demolition of the old to replace with new.
Meanwhile, the district faces challenges. Mount Greylock's various issues mean dollars from the budget -- a budget that need be focused to a higher degree on saving for the future, and has been, in recent years. However, a recent threat of censure from New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) brought the issue to a head. McCarthy suggested renting laboratory modules -- science trailers, essentially -- to combat the most pressing issue pointed out by NEASC.
As many as 280 schools applied for capital improvement projects with the MSBA in 2012. According to McCar thy, the authority spends ex actly up to its $500 million cap -- funds representing one cent of Massachu setts' six-and-a-half-cent sales tax -- each year. In 2012, the MSBA took on roughly 41 schools for "accelerated" roof, window and other repairs, and fifteen or sixteen major projects, McCarthy said.
To reach Phil Demers,