WILLIAMSTOWN -- In the midst of a long battle for state funds to build a new high school, Mount Greylock Regional School District (MGRSD) also has to address shortfalls in its current ailing building, school officials said at a committee meeting Tuesday night.
The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) is requesting that the district submit a special progress report by mid-January detailing how it plans to mitigate facility issues at Mount Greylock Regional High School over time. The association gave a list of concerns after a visit to the school one month ago and could put Mount Greylock's accreditation on probation in 2015 if the specific solutions aren't mapped out.
NEASC's major concerns, listed in a Nov. 7 letter from Jane D. Allison, were 16 items, including but not limited to lack of ADA compliance; "unsecured chemicals" in its "inadequately sized, outdated" science labs, which "barely function;" ice; electrical and heating issues; and excessive outside doors that do not close properly.
Rose Ellis, superintendent of Williamstown and Lanesborough Public Schools, said at the meeting that the district will seek in its report to demonstrate "reasonable progress" toward addressing the association's stated concerns.
"We're gathering numbers and cost estimates for every single one of [the cited issues]," Ellis said.
Because the school's been on warning with NEASC since 2005, the association sought to spur action by setting the special progress report deadline. An update from the district will be provided at a School Building Committee meeting scheduled for Nov. 29, Ellis said, where a spreadsheet detailing individual remedies and their respective costs will be parsed. District officials will then make recommendations on these at its next monthly meeting Dec. 18.
Earlier this year, the district sought acceptance into the Massachusetts School Building Authority's (MSBA) feasibility study program, which would have effectively short-tracked Mount Greylock for a school replacement or renovation project. District officials were notified Nov. 7 that the MSBA had instead set its sights on schools in Woburn, Scituate and Holyoke and that they'd have to resubmit in January.
Without a larger project in the works, NEASC wants the district in the meantime to identify a "timeline and sources of funding" to rectify the high school's most pressing deficiencies.
In an interview after Tuesday's meeting, Ellis said specifics about district plans to address NEASC's concerns are forthcoming, but shed light on efforts to reposition the district for MSBA consideration in 2013. District officials "hope [MSBA executive director] Jack McCarthy will come out and see us" and help perfect their 2013 pitch to the authority for assistance."
Mount Greylock School Committee Chair Carolyn Green added that she, Ellis and other district representatives attended a recent MSBA meeting and made "good connections" while beginning to gather "very specific guidelines" to help them in improving their 2013 proposal to the MSBA.
The MSBA, allotted 1 cent of Massachusetts' six-and-half-cent sales tax, funds school building projects throughout the commonwealth. More than 250 schools applied with MSBA for capital improvement projects this year, according to MSBA spokesman Dan Collins.
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In other business
Also at Tuesday's Mount Greylock Regional School Committee meeting:
* Carolyn Greene was appointed Mount Greylock School Committee chair, succeeding Robert Ericson.
* Sheila Hebert was appointed the committee's vice chair.
* New committee member Colleen Taylor, of Williamstown, was introduced.
* Technology Specialist teacher Richard Scullin announced major progress in educating students in sixth grade and above on the meaning of "digital citizenship;" and several other staff and administrators announced the expansion of the district's successful Writing Fellows Program, which pairs students with writing tutors in the form of Williams College students. Titled "Studio 1871," the program will enjoy a new, currently unused space inside the school.
* Implementation measures for the new federal teacher and administrator evaluation guidelines associated with 2009's Race to the Top initiative were discussed to the satisfaction of the committee.