NORTH ADAMS -- The city's early childhood programs will have a new home this September, a move that city officials say will help alleviate overcrowding.
North Adams Public Schools Superintendent James E. Montepare said making the move from Brayton Elementary School to the second floor of the Johnson School is necessary given the greater number of services the city now offers.
"The program has just gotten so big and consumed a lot of space, its really outgrown space we had available at Brayton," he explained.
Brayton was built in 1993 and was meant to hold approximately 400 students, he said, but this past year served close to 550.
Approximately 150 of those students are in the preschool program, Montepare said, which also employs four full-time teachers.
"When Brayton was built, it was built to have one classroom for two sessions of preschool," he noted. "Now there's eight sessions every day."
In addition, Montepare said, the scope of services has increased since the 90s -- Brayton now houses a program for autistic children, along with occupational, speech and physical therapy programs which together employ approximately 30 professionals.
Combining those programs together in a separate building will bring Brayton closer to capacity, he said.
"They're still over their mark, but it dramatically diminishes issue of overcrowding," he said.
The Johnson School, built in 1898 and located on School Street, was last used as an elementary school in 1993. Since the mid-90s, the building has housed the city's Head Start program on the first floor.
"We thought it was a great mix to move our program to the same facility and incorporate early childhood services at a greater scale," Montepare said.
One benefit to the move will be the ability to share services among the different programs, he said.
"Currently we use the same amount of space [at Brayton], but it happens in different areas," he said. "This move will consolidate things."
Rooms at the Johnson School are approximately 800 square feet, he said, with a large foyer that could be used for group meetings. A full outdoor playground is also on the property, he said.
"All summer long, we've made arrangements to have the move take place," Montepare said. "Our maintenance department has been over sprucing it up. They've been painting, polishing floors and bringing the hardwood floors into good condition."
Montepare said other city elementary schools are still above capacity -- both Greylock and Sullivan serve approximately 270 students, but ideally should serve 240, he said.
Continued overcrowding issues would be addressed by the renovation of the Silvio O. Conte School, he said, which is scheduled to open for the start of the 2015 school year for 310 children in grades K through 7.
"With the Conte renovation, it would take 70 students into a new facility, which would put all of those numbers where they should be," he said.
To reach Edward Damon,