Mount Greylock Panel Prepping Presentation on New School

By Stephen DravisSpecial to iBerkshires
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Mount Greylock Regional School District Superintendent Rose Ellis, second from left, meets with the rest of the district's Building Subcommittee on Thursday night.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The group charged with addressing the poor infrastructure in the Mount Greylock Regional School District is doing what it can to tell its story locally.

Now it is waiting to see if can take its message to Boston.

The district's Building Subcommittee met on Thursday evening at the aging junior-senior high school on Cold Spring Road. It discussed plans for continued community outreach and received an update from MGRSD Superintendent Rose Ellis on the status of the district's statement of interest filed with the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

Ellis reported that MSBA holds its next meeting on Nov. 14, and the Mount Greylock district is yet to hear whether it will be on the agenda for that meeting.

The MGRSD has started the process with the MSBA several times going back to at least 2006 and has had assessments done on its 1960s building demonstrating the need for either renovation or replacement.

To date, the district has yet to make it to Boston to plead its case before the MSBA. This year, it is contending with building proposals from 190 other districts throughout the commonwealth, Ellis said after Thursday's meeting.

A spot on the Nov. 14 agenda would be a major step forward.

"My sense is that once you're on the agenda, you're on your way," Ellis said.

In 2009, when a portion of the roof at Mount Greylock collapsed and the school's boiler failed, MSBA funded 54 percent of the repairs. Ellis during Thursday's meeting that school districts can receive more or less than that level of reimbursement depending on a number of different factors.

"I think we need to emphasize that, with effort, we can get more," subcommittee member Paula Consolini said. "Emphasize that the school is getting aggressive."

"It would involve a community effort," Ellis said. "We've done it before, and we can do it again."

Consolini is the 12-member subcommittee's point person for community outreach.

Superintendent Rose Ellis, left, and Building Subcommittee Chairwoman Carrie Greene review a PowerPoint presentation for the Williamstown Finance Committee.
At Thursday's meeting, she informed the rest of the panel about a forum hosted earlier this month by the parents of a Williamstown Elementary School pupil. More than 60 people attended the event to discuss the high school's condition.

The subcommittee is encouraging all interested residents of Williamstown, Lanesborough, New Ashford and Hancock to get involved in the process of advocating for a new building. They can start by taking an online survey and can take the next step of reaching out to local legislators. While the MSBA process is, in theory, non-political, the support of elected officials cannot hurt. And Consolini was pleased to report that state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, attended the recent parents' forum.

The next big local meeting to address the building project will be Thursday, Nov. 1, the second in a series of special meetings hosted by the Williamstown Finance Committee.

The "FinComm" is organizing meetings to help residents understand several major capital projects that are percolating in teh town. On Sept. 20, the proposed new fire station was discussed.

Much of Thursday's meeting of the MGRSD Building Subcommittee was devoted to reviewing a PowerPoint presentation Ellis will give at next Thursday's meeting.

The slide show begins by pointing out a paradox: Mount Greylock performs among the top public schools in the commonwealth on standardized tests but it is saddled by a building Ellis characterized as "inhibiting 21st century teaching and learning and draining resources."

The junior-senior high school's deficiencies include science labs without running water, a gymnasium and auditorium without handicapped accessibility, noise pollution in the classrooms, mold and poor air quality. All those problems are documented in Ellis' slide show.

The presentation also will emphasize how the building's problems cost the district money.

One reason the building is characterized as a "money pit" is its energy inefficiency. The structure is 183,000 square feet and was designed to hold 1,200 students. Currently, it has 600 middle school and high school students with no foreseeable need for a significant increase. By comparison, the newer Williamstown Elementary School has 93,000 square feet for 450 pupils.

The current Mount Greylock not only is too big, it is poorly insulated, features 73 exterior doors and an air intake system that pulls in air from the ground level — a serious problem in a region that sees snow five months out of the school year.

Ellis has slides demonstrating how the school could cut its fuel costs in half with greater energy efficiency and could save more than $100,000 in building upkeep, including the cost of annual "mold bombing" in the north and west corridor classrooms each summer.

Updated and expanded at 12:50 p.m., Oct. 26, 2012.

Tags: MGRHS,   MSBA,   school building,   

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