NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Building Committee is preparing enrollment projections and capital planning documents to submit to the Massachusetts School Building Authority this week.
Both enrollment and best practices for capital planning will affect reimbursement rates and scope of any project undertaken.
The city entered the eligibility phase for renovating or replacing Greylock Elementary School in December 2019. The process had been put on hold for some months but the building committee resumed its functions last fall.
On Tuesday, the committee had a preview of the information to be discussed on Friday with MSBA officials. Final documents will be submitted by March 30.
"We need to make sure that the calculation for enrollment is based on our previous projections prior to the pandemic as opposed to through or during the pandemic," Superintendent of Schools Barbara Malkas said. She anticipated some "back and forth questions" from MSBA on Friday that may mean revisions to the current enrollment projection.
Some 30,000 students had "exited" Massachusetts public education during the pandemic, she said, including more than 100 from the North Adams Public Schools. However, it was expected that many of those children will return in the fall when schools are expected to return to more of a normal routine — based on the efficacy and broad distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines.
"So this is the next step on the enrollment projection component which will determine, two things one our building specifications as I already mentioned, and two, it will also determine our projected reimbursement rate," she said. "So it's a really important key component to entering into feasibility, which is the next phase beyond eligibility that we're currently in."
The district will also have to submit a maintenance and capital planning record. Business Administrator Carolyn Burnett said the information will be used to facilitate the MSBA's assessment of district's maintenance and planning practices.
"The maintenance and capital information provided by the district is a threshold requirement for MSBA funding and can count up to two additional points of reimbursement," she said. "One of the first tabs is maintenance and custodial staffing. The next is maintenance planning, which consists of preventative, and predictive maintenance plans."
The MSBA will rank the district's performance of 20 best practices as average, below average or above average and has the authority to determine whether North Adams will get two additional incentive points.
The state building authority provides reimbursement of school building projects based on a number of factors including a community's ability to pay. North Adams received the maximum 80 percent reimbursement rate for eligible spending for the Colegrove Park Elementary School project.
"I've been working with [Director of Facilities] Bob Flaherty to pull some of this information together and get them the documentation and the answers to the questions that they're looking for, and we can hope that this can get us a couple of extra incentive percentage points," said Burnett.
Malkas said Burnett's summary "does not represent the amount of effort that she has had to put into it, along with Mr. Flaherty, in pulling together all of the documentation."
A lot of different work has happened in the last couple of years around facilities and finance, she said, as well as work regarding asbestos and lead paint removal, roofing leaks, heating and air ventilation, and windows.
"It is a lot more effort than can be described in a five-minute presentation by Ms. Burnett so I just want to acknowledge her work to bring this forward," Malkas said. "We are putting this together in an electronic format to share with the School Building Committee in the next month."
School officials also updated the committee on the focus groups, wanting to make sure members were comfortable with the idea that they would be advocating for "the understanding of the need for feasibility of the project."
Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Roberts-Morandi said the focus groups will help the committee in "gathering data across multiple topics and from multiple stakeholders."
"You as members of this team are going to be our frontline communicators and helping us to move forward messages, as well as gathering data," she said. "As we proceed through this process, again, be thinking about who do you know that that is willing to sit down and provide really some solid feedback and to share their thoughts, positive concerns, neutral, because that's going to be an imperative that we have access to just a multitude of voices."
They would not be hearing immediately about the work of the focus groups, but rather they had to be organized for implementation down the road.
The committee was also informed that Drury High's film and television educator Dan Kammer has been working with Greylock Principal Sandra Cote to create a virtual walk-through of the elementary school.
"We anticipate it being a brief video yet thorough enough so that once you're done watching the few minutes of the video you really understand the layout of Greylock on the inside and then a brief view of the outside of it," Roberts-Morandi said.
Burnett also updated the committee on information related to using "model schools." These types of schools are pre-approved by the MSBA for use as meeting all of the educational and building standards. Because of this, they can be more financially accessible than designing and building new. One part of the discussion had occurred over the cost of change orders and member Tara Jacobs had inquired about two model school projects that had used them.
Tewksbury did not have a footprint for a two-story building and had to change it to a three story and in the case of West Springfield, items that the city had agreed to pay for were added on after the project was underway.
The meeting itself was brief at about 17 minutes but Cote, who worked on the Colegrove Park renovation, wanted the committee to understand that it won't always be this way.
"There are meetings like this where it feels like you're not really being asked to do too much, but those kinds of things happen at different points along the process," she said. "There'll be other times where the committee members will be very busy. And then there'll be times where you're just getting information so I appreciate that you're giving up your time and you're committing to this project and I ask that you please don't get discouraged.
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Say goodbye to this burst of spring — Mother Nature prefers a little chaos in her work.
The warm temperatures of Wednesday are about to plummet as a snowstorm — yes a snowstorm — bears down on the Berkshires.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for Pittsfield north and parts of Southern Vermont beginning Thursday evening through Friday night. Total accumulations could reach 6 inches in the higher elevations.
Accuweather is forecasting up to 10 inches with rain all day Thursday and temperatures dipping into the 40s. Thursday night will temperatures dropping into the 30s.
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