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School Subcommittee Recommends Closure of Greylock School

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The schools' Facilities and Finance subcommittee is recommending that Greylock School close at the end of this school year.
School officials say a number of factors are being considered in accelerating the closing — declining enrollment, the building's physical condition and, not least of all, a looming $2.4 million budget deficit. 
The city is currently pursuing a school building project to replace Greylock with a new $61 million structure at same location to open in fall 2027. At that time, Brayton Elementary will close. 
The subcommittee began discussions last week as administrators laid out a preliminary proposal to close Greylock School to offset costs. 
The first proposal was to shift Greylock pupils to Brayton for an estimated cost savings of about $750,000. The subcommittee asked for a proposal to implement the new grade span configuration and how that would affect staffing and budgeting. 
At Monday's meeting, the savings was estimated at about $1 million that in addition to the extra $200,000 coming in state Chapter 70 aid, would cut the deficit in half. 
The total savings would come to $1,267,840, cutting the deficit to $967,027, or a 4.8 percent increase, for fiscal 2025. This will be the baseline for further reductions.
The grade-span configuration, approved by the School Committee last year as part of the building project, would turn Greylock into an early education center and shift all children in Grades 3 to 6 to Colegrove Park Elementary School. 
"So we started the conversation by saying we were going to close Greylock and move everybody to Brayton, and then as we explored at our last meeting, why move them twice?" said Mayor Jennifer Macksey. "And I agree, why move them twice. By starting the grade-span school, it seems its better for the students."
Member Richard Alcombright agreed, saying he believed kids are extremely resilient in these situations. 
"I think it's important that they know they're going to stay in their cohorts. ... in some way, shape or form, Greylock will follow them," he said. "Maybe not in the same classrooms but in the same buildings and same other types of activities."
The North Adams Public Schools has seen an enrollment decline of several hundred, from 1,439 in 2018 to 1,153 this year. Should the School Committee accept the recommendation, the enrollment at each school is expected to be 397 at Brayton (assuming a full prekindergarten) and 372 at Colegrove Park. The schools' capacity is 449 for Brayton and 420 for Colegrove. 
Superintendent Barbara Malkas said the consolidation is not expected to increase classroom sizes as the state average is 24 students and the largest for North Adams is about 20. 
In response to questions from Alcombright, she said the special education programs would be located with their appropriate grade span. Organizing the schools this way will also make it easier for certain special programs since they would not have to shift between schools. 
The reorganization would result in the elimination of about 22 positions, although the administration is recommending adding a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) specialist for each school. The current principal at Brayton still has a year left on her contract and the idea is to shift her to seventh grade at Drury High. 
"We need to marshal our resources in relation to our shrinking enrollment and what have you," said committee member Tara Jacobs. "But ideally, also use the savings as an opportunity to play with the STEM positions and on any of the ways that we can find to enrich programming that we're offering while consolidating our resources together."
Some of the posts may be vacated by retirements or by teachers who decide they don't want to change schools, said Malkas, who added she has spoken with some union leaders. 
The administration also has to assess the loss of important positions from the ending of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds this year such as nurse leader, adjustment counselors and behavior techs.
"This exercise is not done for us, we have quite a bit of work to do in exactly really honing that number, what is our actual gap closure in this scenario," Malkas said. "And then there's the personnel side of things."
Alcombright made the motion to recommend the closing the Greylock at the end of the school and was seconded by Macksey. The School Committee will hear the presentation at its meeting on Tuesday. 
"This doesn't mean there will not ever be a neighborhood school in Greylock," said Malkas. "We have this building project. There is the potential to have a beautiful state-of-the-art early education facility in the Greylock community that will serve generations to come, well beyond my tenure."

Tags: brayton/greylock project,   school closures,   

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How can women bridge the retirement gap?

Submitted by Edward Jones

March 8 is International Women's Day, a day for celebrating all the accomplishments of women around the globe. But many women still need to make up ground in one key area: retirement security.

Women's challenges in achieving a secure retirement are due to several factors, including these:

  • Pay gap – It's smaller than it once was, but a wage gap still exists between men and women. In fact, women earn, on average, about 82 cents for every dollar that men earn, according to the Census Bureau. And even though this gap narrows considerably at higher educational levels, it's still a source of concern. Women who earn less than men will likely contribute less to 401(k) plans and will ultimately see smaller Social Security checks.
  • Longer lives – At age 65, women live, on average, about 20 more years, compared to almost 17 for men, according to the Social Security Administration. Those extra years mean extra expenses. 
  • Caregiving responsibilities – Traditionally, women have done much of the caregiving for young children and older parents. And while this caregiving is done with love, it also comes with financial sacrifice. Consider this: The average employment-related costs for mothers providing unpaid care is nearly $300,000 over a lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Labor — which translates to a reduction of 15 percent of lifetime earnings. Furthermore, time away from the workforce results in fewer contributions to 401(k) and other employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Ultimately, these issues can leave women with a retirement security deficit. Here are some moves that can help close this gap:

  • Contribute as much as possible to retirement plans. Try to contribute as much as you can afford to your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan. Your earnings can grow tax deferred and your contributions can lower your taxable income. (With a Roth 401(k), contributions aren't deductible, but earnings and withdrawals are tax free, provided you meet certain conditions.) At a minimum, contribute enough to earn your employer's matching contribution, if one is offered, and try to boost your contributions whenever your salary goes up. If you don't have access to a 401(k), but you have earned income, you can contribute to an IRA. Even if you don't have earned income, but you have a spouse who does, you might be eligible to contribute to a spousal IRA.
  • Maximize Social Security benefits. You can start taking Social Security at 62, but your monthly checks will be much bigger if you can afford to wait until your full retirement age, which will be around 66½. If you are married, you may want to coordinate your benefits with those of your spouse — in some cases, it makes sense for the spouse with the lower benefits to claim first, based on their earnings record, and apply for spousal benefits later, when the spouse with higher benefits begins to collect.
  • Build an emergency fund. Try to build an emergency fund containing up to six months' worth of living expenses, with the money kept in a liquid account. Having this fund available will help protect you from having to dip into your retirement accounts for large, unexpected costs, such as a major home or car repair.

It's unfortunate, but women still must travel a more difficult road than men to reach retirement security. But making the right moves can help ease the journey.


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