Mount Greylock Officials Turn Up Heat for New SchoolBy Tammy Daniels
03:35AM / Wednesday, September 18, 2013
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — School officials are encouraging residents in Williamstown and Lanesborough to get informed about the pursuit for a new high school and to let state representatives know what they think.
Last week's closure of Mount Greylock Regional High School for humidity problems was "the nail in the coffin, the icing on the cake," said School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn "Carrie" Greene at Tuesday's committee meeting.
"Hopefully, the catalyst as well," added Superintendent of Schools Rose Ellis.
The school district has been advocating for a new or renovated building for several years, citing the 50-year-old school's structural problems, heating and cooling deficiences, outdated educational configurations and accessibility limits.
The HVAC issues were prominent last week when students were sent home early on Wednesday and the school closed Thursday because humidity caused condensation that made the floors, school officials said, dangerously slippery.
"It was a very difficult decision to make, a snow day the very first week of school," said Ellis, adding students and parents were supportive of the decision. Parent Wendy Penner was so incensed she called The Boston Globe tip line, which resulted in an article in the state's largest newspaper.
School Committee members say they've been pelted with questions about the school and the potential for a new one everywhere they've gone, leading Committee member David Langston to joke about wearing a disguise to go the grocery store.
Greene said many questions were prompted by "the incredulity" of closing the school in 90-degree weather. (Amherst High School also reportedly closed.)
Between the articles and contacts, the state School Building Authority is well aware of the problems at Mount Greylock, said Greene. She and Ellis have both spoken with state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, and state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, as well as with MSBA head Jack McCarthy, who toured the school last year.
"They are sympathetic to our plight," said Greene.
The school district is expected to go before the MSBA board in November. It was passed over last year.
She encouraged residents to contact Cariddi and Downing. "They do pass these emails along to the MSBA," said Greene. "I think it's important for people to know."
Langston also suggested contacting U.S. Rep. Richard Neal's office to create pressure from above and below.
The School Committee will also give the community more direct information with the publication of a pamphlet with the highlights of the district's statement of interest to join the MSBA's building program. The document will be available at various points around town; a digital copy is on the district's website.
What may help the school project along is regionalization, said Greene.
A 12-member subcommittee has spent the past four months researching the pros and cons of regionalizing Mount Greylock with the two elementary feeder schools, which formed a school union several years ago. Ellis and a number of administrators are already leading both union and school district.
The subcommittee had voted both to recommend regionalization and to continue the study, said Greene. "They were complementary votes, at least in my eyes."
The School Committee agreed unanimously that the committee should continue its research; Greene said committee members were needed work with the regionalization panel, especially on outreach to the community.
"We all need to be willing to be out there," said Greene. Langston said it wasn't just explaining the process, it's also about listening to community concerns.
"We also need to be attentive," he said.