North Adams Schools Set Calendar, Review Budget

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. —Schoolchildren will have an extra long holiday vacation next year. 
 
The School Committee approved a calendar that has students on break from the end of the school day Friday, Dec. 20, to Thursday, Jan. 2.
 
The calendar was one of two options recommended by the teachers union. Superintendent of Schools Barbara Malkas said the only difference was the start date.
 
The teachers preferred to begin professional development on Monday, Aug. 26, with school starting Thursday, Aug. 29. The other option was to start two days later and end the school year two days later. 
 
"I will say that this an action-packed week because you also have to build in time for compliance training," said Malkas. "But we also have to build in opportunities for teachers to set up their classrooms. And this year, particularly with the move, anticipated move, We felt that they're going to need additional time to get ready for their students."
 
The school year would end on June 20, 2025, but could finish earlier if fewer than five snow days are used. 
 
The committee was also brought up to speed on the budget deliberations at last week's Finance & Facilities subcommittee.
 
Mayor Jennifer Macksey said she expected the subcommittee to meet at the end of April to "really dig into the budget line by line" and present it to the full committee in May.
 
"The focus has been on —as we know we have to make cuts and as we're planning on going to grade span schools —keeping the educational plan and even enhancing it as our primary focus and making sure that the transition to grades within schools is as seamless as it can be for our students," she said.
 
The spending plan for fiscal 2025 includes the closure of Greylock School and the resulting reduction of 29 full-time equivalent positions, one of which is grant funded. 
 
"There still is a tremendous amount of work that we're doing internally as a leadership team," said the mayor. "But we're chipping away at it." 
 
Malkas said the direction given by the committee to shift to grade-span configuration and two elementary schools allowed the team to focus in on the educational program to ensure it could be preserved in the coming budget. 
 
"We still were not able to meet the anticipated costs associated with that budget," said Malkas.
 
The Finance & Facilities had been presented with a budget gap of $869,492, down from an initial $2.4 million. To close that gap, the administration is recommending the use of $547,305 in school choice funds and $100,000 increase in the city's portion. 
 
That would translate into a 2.6 percent increase in the city's contribution of $3,938,27 for an overall budget increase of 1.47 percent. 
 
"We want to be cautious with relying on school choice funds to balance our budget," said Macksey, adding they were "very sensitive to not cutting too deep." "We have this money and we should be using it. But we're using it cautiously in the sense that we don't want to have to rely on balancing our budget with school choice."
 
Director of School Finance and Operations Nancy Rauscher noted that school-choice funds had not been used in the years when the school budget had been buoyed by the now-expiring federal pandemic funds. 
 
"One of the reasons we haven't been doing that is we anticipated what would be happening in FY25," she said. "The administration and the Finance and Facilities subcommittee discussed the fact that given the current balance of school choice, this was a number we felt was prudent and responsible. 
 
"But again, to underscore what the mayor is saying, we want to make sure whatever budget we're putting forward is sustainable year over year."
 
Rauscher was confident that the district would be receiving more than $400,000 in school choice this coming year to offset the expenditure. The district would also have a balance in the account of $1.3 million to $1.5 million even with the drawdown, she said questions.
 
"If that becomes our practice, we should probably start looking at the prior year's revenue," she said.
 
Committee member Richard Alcombright said recommendations were coming from experience and a committee focused on the education of the city's children.
 
"It's being done by a group of people who've been around, we've been there and done this for a long time and the priority simply being the students, the students at the end of the day," he said. "That budget, whatever it comes out to be, is what benefits our students."
 
Committee member Tara Jacobs said she expected there would be some level of pushback and asked the best way for the members to give the best assessment in light of the big changes that were happening. 
 
Macksey thought it was important they all do their homework to make sure their information was accurate and encouraged parents to ask questions.
 
"If you're unsure, don't speculate on Facebook, because 90 percent of it is incorrect," she said. "Ask us, come to our meetings and ask the questions. But we are still in the process and just trust us and know that our No. 1 priority is our students and our staff.
 
"Trust me, I don't want to be the mayor that closes a school but I also don't want to be a mayor that increases taxes $2 million."
 
The committee has also discussed celebrating the final class at Greylock Elementary, which will close at the end of the school year, welcoming a new community into Colegrove Park and Brayton elementaries.
 
The School Committee raised tuition rates by 3 percent. 
 
High school tuition was set at $14,262 a year and special education at $25,706. Specialized programming will rise to $34,278 and secondary level to $46,709 with partner districts paying $37,705.
 
The committee also set rates for summer camps including the Sunshine Camp.
 
Correction: the original dates noted for the calendar were in error and have been corrected. 

Tags: fiscal 2025,   north adams_budget,   school budget,   

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Weekend Outlook: Spring Celebrations, Clean-ups, and More

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
This spring weekend, there are a variety of events in and around the Berkshires, including Spring Celebrations, music, cleanups, and more.  
 
Editor's Pick
 
Downtown Celebrates Spring Week
Downtown Pittsfield
Saturday & Sunday
 
There will be various events to celebrate spring, including a beach and tea party, and a free Kids' Paint & Sip event.  
 
The featured event is "Where's Winston?" a spring scavenger hunt for images of the Pittsfield Police Department's comfort dog, Officer Winston, at a dozen downtown locations. More information here
 
Friday 
 
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