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The new School Committee talks school renovation and looming teacher shortage.

North Adams School Officials Talk Next Steps in Greylock Project

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — While Greylock School has been accepted into the first steps of a school renovation program, it will take years for the process to play out.
"There are lots of considerations and documentation to complete along the way that ultimately will inform our feasibility and design," Superintendent Barbara Malkas said. "We are looking at a seven-year time window from entering into eligibility to actually completing the process."
Malkas had been asked to update the School Committee last Tuesday on the status of the feasibility study with Massachusetts School Building Authority.
The MSBA Board of Directors voted to invite the North Adams Public Schools into the eligibility phase last month. 
No major renovations have been done to 60-year-old building since the 1960s, prompting the School Committee to submit statements of interest to the MSBA since 2017. 
Once entering into this eligibility phase, the city will have 270 days to complete an Initial Compliance Certification, form a school building committee, complete an educational profile questionnaire, compile a summary of district maintenance practices, complete a certification of design enrollment, and seek community authorization.
When that is completed, there will be the opportunity to enter into the next phase, the feasibility study.   
"There are a lot of requirements in the next three years and you are not automatically accepted into the feasibility study once you complete module one," Malkas said. "You still have to go before the MSBA to get their approval, which will take another year before you go in front of the voters."
Committee member Robert Moulton Jr. asked if the city is considering a renovation or new build but Malkas said this decision is a ways away.
She said they need to have three different scenarios in the application that will most likely include a total rebuild and renovation. She said many of these design choices are also a far off.
"The good thing is that at this point, it is still an open question," Mayor Thomas Bernard added.
In other business, Malkas gave a human resources presentation and noted in the coming years they are likely to have a large influx of teachers retiring but will have fewer younger teachers moving up through the ranks.
She said the majority of the 282.8 full-time educational employees in the district are either eligible for retirement or soon will be.
"A majority of teachers are in the age group where they currently are eligible or will be very soon eligible for retirement," Malkas said. "More of a concern is what happens in the next 10 years when the majority of our teachers are eligible for retirement so we have a pipeline issue and we are going to have a lot of open positions."
According to a graph Malkas provided, there are just under 60 educational employees in the 57 to 64 age bracket and just under 20 in the over-64 age bracket.
More concerningly, there are just more than 60 educational employees in the 49 to 56 age bracket. There are also just over 60 staff members in the 41 to 48 age bracket.
The following age brackets compound the issue and becuase there are just under 40 employees in the 33 to 40 age bracket and barely more than 20 in the 26 to 32 age bracket and about the same in the under-26 bracket.  
Malkas said there is a huge drop off coming.
"We have fewer people pursuing careers in education ... and the job has become far more complex than it was when I first started my teaching career," she said. "It is a much more complex job and less people are attracted to it."
She said when this mass exodus of veteran teachers happens, a lot of experience and institutional knowledge will be absent from the schools.
Malkas said school district has partnered with Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts to help foster educators to, hopefully, supply this pipeline. The goal would be to keep incoming teachers in the Berkshires and optimally in North Adams. 
Bernard added that this is a national issue so North Adams is not alone. However, this also creates challenges because he said this will create more competition for the dwindling pool of teachers. 

Tags: Greylock School,   MSBA,   

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Berkshire Food Project Recognizes Hours Put in by Volunteers

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Three generations of volunteers with Linda Palumbo, left, Cindy Bolte, Alicia Rondeau and Cassandra Shoestack.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Five days a week a troop volunteers helps the small staff of the Berkshire Food Project feed hundreds of people. 
On Monday night, the tables were turned. 
More than 30 volunteers and attending family members were served up a choice of beef wellington and potato, salmon and rice, or a vegetarian meal, along with appetizers, dessert and beverages.
"Just from 2018 to 2019, [we served] 10,000 more meals, right, a 28 percent increase in 2019. So the numbers on the stove, same amount of counterspace. The only thing that changed is the capacity of our volunteers. So thank you, guys," said Executive Director Kim McMann. 
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