WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional School Committee has decided to hire a Greenfield architect to help develop a plan to spend a $5 million capital endowment.
The school district received the gift from Williams College last year to help cover improvements not included in the $65 million addition/renovation project at the junior/senior high school.
The district received two responses to its requests for proposals to help determine cost projections for 10 potential projects ranging from a new parking lot to a home for the central administration offices shared by Williamstown's and Lanesborough's public schools to lighting and sound improvements to the renovated auditorium.
"We got two excellent responses to help us with how we're going to spend the money," said committee member Al Terranova, who served on a working group to evaluate the responses, at Tuesday's meeting.
That working group recommended Greenfield's Jones Whitsett Architects in a narrow decision over Perkins Eastman, which is the district's architect on the building project itself.
School Committee Vice Chairwoman Carolyn Greene noted that Jones Whitsett recently was one of the architects on the $40.5 million renovation at Hoosac Valley and principal Margo Jones was the architect on the current Williamstown Elementary School. The firm also worked on Colegrove Park Elementary School in North Adams.
The five School Committee members in attendance Tuesday evening voted unanimously to hire Jones Whitsett at a cost not to exceed $98,000.
The committee also endorsed a School Choice recommendation put forward by Principal Mary MacDonald, who recommended that the district open up 22 new slots spread among its six grades for the 2017-18 academic year.
The class with the most new slots opening up for next year is the senior class, which will have six openings — about double what the district usually allows for the final year of high school.
"It looks like a lot for the seniors," MacDonald said. "We've always opened up two or three spots for students whose families move away from the district who we want to allow to finish their senior high school education at Mount Greylock. But we've also had a number of students express interest who are St. Joe students."
The committee approved five new School Choice slots each in next year's seventh- and eighth-grade classes and three each in the freshmen and sophomore classes. Next year's junior class will not have any new choice slots; it has a projected enrollment of 99, which likely will make it the class with the highest enrollment. If all this year's eighth-graders stay at Mount Greylock for their freshman year (and the School Choice slots are all filled), that honor would belong to the Class of 2021 with 106 students), but several students in any year opt to switch to McCann Tech for their high school years.
The total maximum enrollment for 2017-18 is 573 under the plan approved Tuesday night, though that likely will drop given the historical loss of students to McCann Tech. At full enrollment, Mount Greylock would have about 6.6 percent more students than the 535 that the new high school (planned to come online next spring) is being built to accommodate.
"It's designed for 535 students with flexibility in terms of seats in classes," MacDonald said. "We think we can take probably around 93 students per class. That's a good target going forward in the new building."
An average class size of 93 would translate to an enrollment of 558 — 4.3 percent higher than the enrollment for which the school is designed.
There will not be enough lockers in the school for all those students, but MacDonald said the juniors and seniors at the school don't use their lockers now.
"To quote a senior I talked to today, they said, ‘I don't even know where my locker is,' " MacDonald said.
This year's seniors, the last to attend all six years at the 1960 building, was to vote Thursday on how it will be dressed for June's commencement. Traditionally, boys have worn red and girls have worn white — the school colors — at the ceremony. But the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has instructed districts to move away from the concept of gender specific caps and gowns, MacDonald told the School Committee.
The senior class has discussed a number of options, including monochromatic gowns and a random distribution system, she said. The administration intends going forward to give each class the option to make a similar decision.
In other business Tuesday, the School Committee reviewed the draft fiscal year 2018 budget it next month will vote to send to the towns of Williamstown and Lanesborough for approval.
And MacDonald brought news of triumph and tragedy.
The Mount Greylock community this week celebrated the news that two seniors, Aaron and Matthew Kleiner, were named National Merit Scholarship finalists, rare achievements even at the high achieving school. But on Tuesday, students also were informed of the passing of longtime Latin teacher Marjorie Keeley, who died in her home over the weekend.
"Today, I was so proud of our school community coming together support each other," MacDonald said. "She was a very bright firecracker of passion and good will. Her love for Latin, love for Mount Greylock and love for learning will be missed."