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The school department is looking to move Grade 7 to the high school to make room for preK classes in the elementary schools.

North Adams Mulls Moving PreK and Grade 7 Classes

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Finance and Facilities Subcommittee will recommend the School Committee approve moving Grade 7 up to the high school.

The move to consolidate resources will also relocate the preK program from Johnson School into the elementary schools and add one class.

The change to a preK-Grade 6 and Grade 7-12 reconfiguration will require a School Committee vote and the approval of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which the school department is already pursuing.

Malkas said she had spoken separately with School Committee members about ways to consolidate resources before bringing the proposal to the subcommittee. There were two options: moving the preK program into each of the three elementary schools or creating a single early childhood center at one school.

"After doing some research looking at enrollment patterns and facilities use, knowing that we still had an open MSBA project at Colegrove Park, the decision was to pursue the first model," said Superintendent Barbara Malkas.

MSBA had approved the district's realignment as a K-7, 8-12 configuration in the renovation of Colegrove Park Elementary School so any change requires the state agency's approval. The school department had to provide it information on enrollment and educational and special education programming.

"We have submitted all that information we have not received a response right away," Malkas said. "If we get their approval then we will be able to proceed forward."

She told the subcommittee of Tara Jacobs, Mark Moulton and Nicholas Fahey that she did not anticipate any difficulties because of the minimal impact on enrollment and how the grades are so closely configured.

"We're basically swapping out two classrooms at one grade level for two classrooms at another grade level," she said, adding that North Adams' enrollment has remained fairly steady even as other school districts have declined.

The preK classes at Johnson are designed for children requiring special education services. However, for every one child on an individualized education plan, two typically developing children can attend. There are other limitations related to class size and instructors.

"We don't have enough spots for typical peers and we have a waiting list," Malkas said.

There are five preK programs, including the Castles program for children on the autism spectrum. That program would move to Colegrove Park Elementary to align with the existing K-7 Castles program, with the expectation a sixth preK classroom would be created there. Greylock and Brayton would also have two preK classrooms each.

Malkas said putting the preK children into their neighborhood schools would help in terms of continuity, as would moving the seventh grade to create a middle school program at Drury High. Grade 7 tends be the odd grade out at the elementary schools and Grade 8 at the high school. Giving the students more time prepare for the high school experience may also help with the transition from Grade 8 to 9.

Committee members had some concerns with space and transportation of Grade 7. Malkas said the focus would be on team teaching in the middle school program and both grades would occupy the Grade 8 wing with limited contact with high school students. There are also is some discussion of creating a separate entrance for the middle school.

While older students tend to ride the bus less, Grade 7 would still be sharing buses with juniors and seniors, she said, adding that other nearby school districts already do this.

Mount Greylock Regional School in Williamstown has a middle school program as does Hoosac Valley High School in Adams.

The subcommittee is also recommending that the city submit a statement of interest to the MSBA for Greylock School.

The city had initially requested that the MSBA consider both Greylock School and Colegrove Park for renovation but the two-school proposal was rejected and the focus became the $30 million renovation of century-old Colegrove completed last year.

Greylock, built in the 1950s added onto in the 1960s, still has most of its original components. The roof was redone in 2001-2 and the newest boiler is at least 20 years old.

Applying to the MSBA's accelerated program was considered, but Business Manager Nancy Ziter said it only covers roofs, windows and boilers. But replacing the windows and boilers alone would push the costs above 10 percent value of $3 million building, triggering a host of other code issues including the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

And that still wouldn't address the educational programming needs in the building. "It's not set up for a 21st century education," Ziter said.

Malkas said the preference was to pursue a complete renovation or rebuild. "It's been a well-maintained building but it's a 1950s, 1960s building," she said.

The subcommittee voted to recommend submitting an SOI so as to get that decision before the School Committee and City Council in February so the votes and minutes could be sent with the application in April.

In other business, Ziter reported that Colegrove Park earned Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, the second highest ranking.

The designation means that the MSBA can now begin the audit process to close out the Colegrove Park project. Part of the point system for reimbursement related to getting LEED certification. Ziter estimated late spring before the audit was completed.

Tags: Colegrove Park,   middle school,   MSBA,   NAPS,   preschool,   

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