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North Adams School Officials Vote for New Greylock School Project
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
05:30AM / Wednesday, October 18, 2023
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city will submit a new Greylock School as its preferred option to the Massachusetts School Building Authority. 
The decision was not unexpected — the School Building Committee last week unanimously recommended the estimated $61 million project. 
The School Committee and the building committee on Tuesday voted aye — with several "resounding" yeses — to move forward with a new build. The other options were an addition/renovation at Greylock or a renovation at Brayton Elementary. 
Much of the discussion echoed reasoning from last week's School Building Committee meeting as to why a new school would be preferable — fewer unknowns, less disruption of students, Brayton being more attractive for reuse, and minimal difference in cost. 
It would also serve the city's schoolchildren for the next 50 years. 
"Certainly this school would last us longer, but we're faced as a district with declining enrollments, declining population, as is every other district in Berkshire County," said Richard Alcombright, a member of both committees. "This is not only an opportunity for us to downsize and make our district, in a sense, the buildings kind of fit our population." 
A major factor in the choice was the adjustment in estimates over the summer. The new build had come in at $75 million to $90 million but TSKP Studios had dropped the cost estimates for all three options based on MSBA's average costs over the past decade. 
All three were estimated between $60 million and $61 million, lessening the sticker shock from the first estimates. 
The School Department's Robert Flaherty said building new would eliminate a lot of unknowns. 
"Part of what concerns me if we do a reno is that it's not always cheaper because once you open the envelope with the school, you don't know what you're going find," he said. 
Business Administrator Nancy Rauscher agreed, saying there had been more renovations in the past but that has changed. 
"Over time, that differential between doing an add/reno versus a new building has gotten much tighter," she said. "In my mind, knowing the differential between what an add/renovation would be versus  new — and that would be assuming we were looking at Greylock ... in my mind, would seem like a much more viable site, long term."
The new Greylock is estimated to cost the city $29.6 million after the MSBA's reimbursement of eligible costs, or about as much as Colegrove Park Elementary School cost in total.
The new school's alignment with the city's educational needs and its adaptability in terms of climate change, energy efficiency and alternative energies make sense, said Superintendent Barbara Malkas. 
"So having a building that will not only outlive us, literally outlive me," she said. "But being adapted to our changing climate, so that we are in fact creating a really stellar educational experience for our youngest learners." 
Members of the School Committee Alyssa Tomkowicz liked how the new school would be bright and sunny, Emily Daunais thought an exciting opportunity that looked toward the future and David Sookey that it would be "more bang for the buck."
Should the MSBA accept the preferred option, the project will move into the schematic design with expected completion next April. The City Council would vote on funding in late summer with bidding in 2025 and the new school would open in 2027. 
Alcombright asked that the community be patient with the process and contact Mayor Jennifer Macksey or the superintendent with questions. 
"It's a lot of money. Don't speculate on how that can be paid for right now," he continued. "The mayor will bring forward a plan. Let her do her work."
Macksey pledged transparency in developing a financing plan and acknowledged the $29.6 million is "a scary number."
"But there is a pathway for us to do that," she said. "And I think we as a community have to really reach and take advantage of the close to 80 percent reimbursement from the MSBA, because if we don't do it now, it may not be there for us in three years or five years, and we saw that in some of our neighboring communities."
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