NORTH ADAMS -- Regardless of whether or not city voters approve the Conte School renovation funding on April 30, the North Adams Public Schools will be relocating its pre-kindergarten program and administrative offices before the start of the new school year.
The district's pre-kindergarten program, which is currently at Brayton Elementary School, will relocate to Johnson School over the summer and begin programming in its new space at the beginning of September.
In addition, the district has issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) for 10,000-square-feet of office space and 2,000-square-feet of dry storage to accommodate its administrative offices, housed at Conte School and at it's educational center on West Main St. The proposals, which are due by April 12 at 9 a.m., call for the space to be occupied by the district as of June 1.
Superintendent James E. Montepare said moving the preschool program is necessary, as the district is looking to alleviate overcrowding issues at Brayton Elementary School.
"All of our elementary schools are at maximum capacity and Brayton currently has 541 children, of which 139 of those students are in preschool. When we built Brayton in 1994, it was with provisions for a one preschool classroom," he said during Tuesday night's School Committee meeting. "To date, we have four preschool classrooms, four full-time preschool teachers and eight sessions -- morning and afternoon classes."
Additionally, Gov. Deval Patrick has proposed an education plan that requires the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to create a universal preschool program that would be open to all children at age 4, potentially increasing the district's preschool population.
"While that won't happen for a while, we've been talking about our early education program for some time and the only way to reduce numbers at our elementary schools, aside from building a new school in addition to the Conte project, is to create an early childhood center at Johnson School," Montepare said. "The school used to house our alternative school program, which we reconfigured and moved. We currently rent the first floor out to Berkshire County Head Start, which serves about 90 children."
He said while the school needs some cosmetic work done to the second floor, it already has a playground and enclosed yard and that there will be six large classrooms for the program, giving it about 30 to 40 percent more space than it currently has.
School Committee member Mary Lou Accetta said that while she was disappointed the district couldn't house its Pre-K students in the individual elementary schools at this time, she believes moving the program to Johnson School is an "excellent option."
As for the district's administrative offices, Montepare said the reasons behind the move are two-fold -- the building which houses the educational offices is part of a lease agreement for Heritage State Park and is no longer an option, which the central offices at Conte School have needed to be moved for some time.
"We need to move these offices," he said. "The renovation plans for Conte do not include space for the administrative offices. Regardless, we need to move these offices because of the condition of this building. The roof is in bad repair; there are offices without heat and we have only two sinks that have hot water. We haven't put any money into this building since the middle school left."
Montepare said the district currently spends about $116,000 on the two spaces annually and hopes to see a cost savings after the move.
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright, who also serves as chairman of the School Committee, said the city had examined every piece of property it owns and cannot find a suitable location for the offices.
"We looked at City Hall, but we don't have an option that works short of putting on an addition," he said. "We looked at the Windsor Mill as well, to move the offices there would require an investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars to make the space suitable."