WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A mini population explosion brought Williams College before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday.
The college asked the town to approve a temporary modular addition to the school's children's center on Whitman Street.
"The college is experiencing a baby boom," Williams Director of Real Estate and Legal Affairs Jamie Art told the ZBA. "That, I think, bodes well for the town.
"The center is outgrowing its capacity for faculty and staff, especially in infant care."
The center, which serves the families of Williams faculty and staff, offers full-day care and education for children ages 6 weeks through preschool and an after-school program for elementary school-aged children.
When space is available, the college makes slots available to the general public, but right now it is bursting at the seams, Art explained.
"There will be an addition of 16 kids and six new employees," he said. "It is unclear now whether this is a temporary boom or whether this will be a long-standing demographic trend, which is the reason to install a modular for a time and to have the college and Children's Center address its needs."
Members of the ZBA asked Art why the college did not just build a permanent addition and, at some point down the road, have more capacity for the families of non-employees.
Art said the school has an immediate need and wants to take the time to consider its long-term options.
While childcare is not, strictly speaking, part of the college's mission, it is a service the school needs to supply in order to competitively recruit faculty and staff, he told the board.
"Part of the challenge is what are these families going to do in town if they want to have kids and there are two people employed out of the home," Art said. "It's a real challenge."
And the college will be doing a lot of faculty recruitment in the next few years, he said.
"The bigger picture is the college is in the process in its recruitment trajectory, especially as there's an aging population of professors nearing retirement," Art said. "They're looking over the course of the next five or six years or so — just in replacing retiring faculty members — that they will need to replace something like 30 percent of their faculty. That means 5 percent of the tenure track professors each year for five or six years.
"This is a great thing for town. This is new folks moving to town. This is people in the demographic the town is trying to attract. It's new kids in the school system."
The college asked for permission to amend the site plan it filed when it built the Children's Center to allow for the temporary building for a period of seven years.
Some members of the ZBA balked at the idea that seven years is "temporary" and suggested a shorter timetable.
"Do we absolutely need seven years? I'm not going to tell you we do," Art said. "In that seven-year period, the college will evaluate the need and come up with a plan … then plan for an addition off the back end of the Children's Center."
"You don't think you'd have a better sense of the need in three years?" ZBA Chairman Andrew Hoar asked.
Art replied that he would be a comfortable with a five-year window for the evaluation and, if needed, permitting of a new permanent space at the center.
The board voted, 5-0, to approve the temporary structure for five years, after which the college could seek an extension or remove the modular building.
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Clark Art Virtual Writing Programs
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Clark Art Institute will offer two free virtual writing sessions in celebration of spring at noon on Tuesday, March 9, and Tuesday, March 16.
Each session features different works from the Clark's collection as inspiration for workshops led by members of the Clark's Education Department.
The interactive virtual program is open to all regardless of experience and offers participants a focused writing session to encourage their creativity as they write their way through a series of open-ended prompts inspired by selected paintings and works-on-paper that feature spring themes. Participants may share their writing with the group at the conclusion of the program or they can opt to remain anonymous. In addition, all participants will be provided with additional nature writing prompts to use on their next springtime visit to the Clark's Ground/work exhibition.
Online registration is required; space is limited to 15 participants per session. Registration for the March 9 session closes at noon on Friday, March 5, and registration for the March 16 session closes on March 12, or when capacity is reached. Registrants will receive an email with a private link to this live virtual program before the event. Visit clarkart.edu/events to register.
Mount Greylock Superintendent Jason McCandless and Business Manager Joe Bergeron met virtually with the town panel — not to discuss specifics of the FY22 budget the district is formulating but to discuss some of the inputs that help build that budget.
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Making a stop at West Parish Elementary School, Baker said educators, who were next on the state's priority list for its phased vaccination rollout, will be able to schedule appointments starting Thursday, March 11.
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Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday said the commonwealth has been told to expect a "lot more" of the single dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the month.
In the meantime, he stressed that all vaccines are safe and effective and encouraged residents to get whichever vaccine they can... click for more