Mayor: Greylock School School Still in the Mix for MSBA Project

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The closure of Greylock School isn't a done deal, says Mayor Jennifer Macksey. 
 
The mayor made the comments during Tuesday's School Building Committee, during which it unanimously voted to go with TSKP Studio as the designer for the Brayton/Greylock school project. 
 
"I think out of the gate when we started this project, it was before my time, everybody kind of jumped the gun a little bit and thought Greylock was going to be the one to close but that decision has not been made," she said. "And quite frankly, under my administration, I'm not sure that that will be a decision that will be made."
 
The city had initially pursued a renovation project at Greylock School but pulled the plug last year after feedback from the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which raised serious concerns about the city's projected enrollment over the next decade and the taxpayers' appetite to fund a new school.
 
The MSBA invited the city to submit an amended proposal that would include Brayton School.
 
In terms of MSBA projects, the focus is always how best to educate X-number of students, not necessarily on any particular building. However, the School Building Committee at the time was working with the presumption that the newer Brayton would likely come out ahead. 
 
Committee member Connie Tatro raised the issue about Greylock because of questions she'd gotten from the community over the past couple weeks and media reports. 
 
"Is definitively Greylock School, in my mind, off the table," she queried. "We're not doing anything with that."
 
Macksey said it wasn't true. 
 
"This is a feasibility study and we will be looking at both buildings and trying to assess what is the best location and building structure for the needs of the community moving forward," she said. 
 
The mayor said no decision will be made until all the data and the feasibility study is reviewed. But, she added, the MSBA will not fund a new school and a renovation project "so we have to choose one or the other."
 
Tatro said her concerns were in light of the shootings at schools and the fact that Brayton is attached to the Northern Berkshire Family YMCA. 
 
"I don't know how smart it is to have a school attached to a public building, as far as safety wise," she said. "That's just been bothering me, not just as a parent, but a concern for all the students like is that the smartest thing to have an elementary school attached to a building that people can come in and out of freely?"
 
Macksey agreed that the safety and the security of the building had to be considered. As well, she said, if Brayton is selected to be renovated, the YMCA will have to be part of that conversation since it is owned by the city. 
 
"So this project may be school related, but it turns into a municipal project as well," she said. 
 
Superintendent Barbara Malkas reminded them that the project will not move faster than the MSBA process allows. This will include looking at educational planning, existing structures, and site review. 
 
"This is a very busy year that we're about to embark on," she said. 
 
Matthew Sturz of Colliers International, the owner's project manager, said the designer selected will bring on an educational visioning specialist who will work with the school district on how education will be delivered in the West End and what infrastructure will be needed to meet the city's vision. 
 
The MSBA process "is a pretty exhaustive inventory of different options," he said, adding "I've seen as many as 27 options being evaluated" in MSBA core projects. 
 
The next step in the process is the hiring of TSKP. 
 
"The subcommittee did meet and we did review the proposal and we felt that it was absolutely favorable to move forward even though we received the one proposal," said Macksey. "We felt very confident with the qualifications, especially with the fact that they have worked with the MSBA before as well as Colliers."
 
TSKP, formerly Tai Soo Kim Partners, is an award-winning design firm that has done projects for schools, colleges and museums  in New England and South Korea. 
 
According to the timeline, a study of existing conditions is expected to take about six weeks from the awarding of the contract, followed by a preliminary design period of 10 weeks. This is based on endorsement of the designer choice by the MSBA. 
 
The School Building Committee will also have to update its members with the MSBA. With the departure of Kimberly Roberts-Morandi, now Assistant Superintendent Timothy Callahan will step in, plus the principals of the two schools in question will now be leaving — Sandra Cote is leaving for Clarksburg School and Carrie Wallace is retiring. Macksey said she also hopes to have an administrative officer on board, who would also be a member of the committee. 
 
Macksey also threw out the idea of having a public forum to hear from parents and family members, and be more sensitive of the "grumblings on the street."
 
"I think it's also important to remember no matter what the decision is that we still as a community need to attend to the one building or the other," she said. "Our hope is to reuse one building or the other for different purposes and not to abandon them like we did Sullivan School ... but again, there is a cost associated with that."

Tags: brayton/greylock project,   school building committee,   

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Local Author Reads Book At NAPL

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Local Author Maureen Callahan Smith will read from "Grace Street: A Sister's Memoir of Grief & Gratitude" Wednesday, June 29, 6 pm at the North Adams Public Library.
 
In "Grace Street: A Sister's Memoir of Grief & Gratitude," licensed social worker Maureen Callahan Smith writes about accompanying her younger sister Kathy through a late-stage cancer diagnosis.
 
According to a press release, Grace Street is the story of two close sisters, "Irish twins," who are in the midst of their very happy forties when the worst thing happens: a Stage IV cancer diagnosis. The sisters and their family mobilize to face down Kathy's illness together.
 
"Grace Street: A Sister's Memoir of Grief & Gratitude" is available in paperback wherever you buy your books, and a Kindle ebook is available on Amazon.
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