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School Subcommittee Recommends Closure of Greylock School
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
05:27AM / Tuesday, February 06, 2024
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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."
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