WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional School Committee last week decided to cut down the number of new school choice slots open in the district in response to uncertainty about the coming academic year.
In fact, the district will offer just two slots at one of its two elementary schools in order to allow the younger siblings of two existing pupils to enroll in kindergarten.
Generally, the administration asked that the committee cut back from the 13 choice slots that the committee discussed earlier this year.
"We submitted what our proposals would have been back in March had we had a discussion on what school choice would look like for us with additional seats in our classrooms," Superintendent Kimberley Grady said. "Since, the administrative team and I have talked … about the idea of when school reopens, if it reopens, and what it will look like.
"Taking in new students or choice slots, that could be very difficult for us when we’re responsible for the students we presently have and making sure the transitions for all that we have can be made with integrity, safety, social and emotional needs being met. We would like to talk about having a short hiatus on choice, or at least the choice numbers we initially proposed."
Mount Greylock Regional School did not have any choice slots in the original, pre-COVID-19 plan. Lanesborough Elementary School originally had seven slots proposed, but Principal Nolan Pratt agreed with the proposal Grady made to the committee, even though he generally likes the choice program.
"You don’t want to count your chickens before they lay eggs, obviously, and we don’t even know what kind of farm we’re going to be working on yet in the fall," Pratt said. "It’s going to be really hard making decisions about adding students to the population.
"I firmly believe that our teachers at Lanesborough can provide the best education for any student out there, and I’d love to allow any student in."
But given the uncertainty, Pratt agreed to hit the pause button for school choice for now.
Williamstown Elementary Principal Joelle Brookner agreed with the exception of those two seats in the 2020-21 kindergarten class.
She asked the School Committee to open those slots, and given the priority lottery that favors siblings of existing pupils at the school, the spots would be filled by the families in question.
"Given the challenges of the pandemic, I do like a family having all their students in one school," Steven Miller said.
Grady told the committee that the fiscal impact of reducing the number of new school choice slots would not hit the district until the 2021-22 fiscal year. She also said the committee could revisit the question at a later date and open more slots if the situation for the fall becomes more certain.
The committee voted 7-0 to, for now, open just the two kindergarten slots at Williamstown Elementary.
In other business last Thursday, the School Committee approved a 2020-21 school calendar that sees students in Grades 1-12 return for classes on Sept. 1 and pre-K and kindergarten classes start Sept. 3.
With no snow days, the last day of school would be June 16, though that could change to June 17 if Gov. Charlie Baker decides to declare Sept. 14, the reschedule date for the Boston Marathon, a state holiday, as has been discussed in Boston.
The committee also discussed reorganizing its subcommittees, including the creation of a new subcommittee on superintendent evaluations. For now, Miller and Al Terranova volunteered to coordinate the evaluation process for this year, and the panel agreed to create a full subcommittee during its August retreat.