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North Adams Schools Keeping Close Eye on Enrollment Numbers

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — School officials are keeping an eye on enrollment figures that could have a devastating effect on the budget's bottome line. 
 
Superintendent Barbara Malkas told the School Committee last week that the school district was still working with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on the final numbers but the news isn't good. 
 
"But as we look at our enrollments we have seen a very precipitous decline," she said. "We are down, approximately 87 students from last year at this time. A good portion of those students have elected home education. We've seen an increase in home education, and we've seen an increase in out migration to private, parochial schools."
 
This is going to create a "significant challenge" going into the budget season, Malkas continued, based on the Chapter 70 education aid impact a drop of 23 students had last year. 
 
Once the data is validated by the state, she will bring a report to the School Committee. The budget will also be affected by state aid and whether there is potential for another stimulus package.
 
"We would be better served to start to look at those impacts sooner than later and maybe move our budget calendar up," Malkas said. "This year, knowing that there will be a lot of flux, but that we are in fact going to be facing from some pretty significant challenges."
 
The committee approved a memorandum of agreement with Dufour Tours that provides some adaptibility should the school district have to switch back to remote. Malkas described it as a continuation of the letter signed with the bus company in the spring.
 
"Basically, it provides for the contractual requirements for transportation, and then allows for us to engage with Dufour in the event that the district needed to return to fully remote learning on very similarly to what we had in the spring," she said. "And allows them to maintain enough revenue to remain solvent."
 
It also offers an option two transport a cafeteria manager to deliver grab-and-go food service into the neighborhoods if the schools go remote. This will be used on Wednesdays, which are all remote, and will keep the manager protected from the elements during the winter. 
 
New routes have also been added this year because of the hybrid model of education, two school vans did not pass inspection and a number of van drivers did not renew their contracts. 
 
"This year, they've picked up some additional service for us in those ways without additional cost," Malkas said. 
 
The committee also approved a change in title for the director of curriculum instruction and assessment to assistant superintendent of schools. There is no additional compensation associated with the title change. 
 
"In these in these days of COVID-19, I think many organizations are thinking about succession plans and thinking about what happens when leadership becomes incapacitated in any way," Malkas explained. "And therefore, having a clear line of succession in the event that the superintendent is not capable of meeting his or her duties."
 
She had reached out to other school districts that had assistant superintendents with the same or similar responsibilities related to curriculum and assessment currently overseen by Kimberly Roberts-Morandi. 
 
"This would be a clear signal to the district and to the community that as the assistant superintendent, she is in fact the designee to the role of superintendent," Malkas said. "So this this change in job title is purely that."
 
Mayor Thomas Bernard pointed to the city's department organization, saying he knows who's in charge if the police chief or the fire chief is away. 
 
"I think this change is incredibly important for the school district to have a clear line if we need to know who's in charge and the superintendent isn't available," he said. "Looking at the role that the director plays already, so this just formalizes something, it doesn't create another another position."
 
In other business, the school building committee for the proposed Greylock School renovation will hold its first meeting on Oct. 20. The school district had been invited into the Massachusetts School Building Authority's eligibility phase but any work toward developing a feasibility study was put off because of the pandemic. The final document for the feasibility study is due in May 2021.
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North Adams Shop Connects Art, Greenery and Curiosities

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Yawn supplements her inventory with plants from local growers. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Emilee Yawn has found a way to connect her love of greenery, art and community with the recently opened Plant Connector at 46-48 Eagle St.
 
The shop in the point of the flat-iron building offers a variety of houseplants, a lending library of gardening and design, exhibition space, and craft and artisan items, some tucked away in cabinet drawers that patrons are encouraged to open.
 
"The idea is that it is like a plant store but it's also a lot of locally made stuff and you can go through the drawers like a curiosity shop," Yawn said. 
 
The "oddities" such as candles, essential oils, cards, totes, baskets and macrame plant hangars made by her mother. Local artists are represented but also items made by crafters Yawn has known in her travels. 
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