The Mt. Greylock High School Building Committee recently formed a Community Outreach Task Force in an effort to persuade citizens to support the funding of a study to examine the feasibility of renovating the school’s deteriorating facilities. Residents will be asked to vote to approve the study in late spring.
The feasibility study, which would help to determine what type of renovation is appropriate for the high school, would cost an estimated $850,000, $467,500 of which would be reimbursed by the state. The residents of Williamstown and Lanesborough, the two towns that feed into the school, will vote whether or not to go forward with this study at town meetings in May and June.
“[The Community Task Force] is about educating and trying to get members of the community to understand what the problems are and why we need to do the study,” Mary MacDonald, principal of Mt. Greylock High School, said. The project entered the eligibility phase back in October, when the Massachusetts School Building Association (MSBA) approved the project. This stage is the first of eight phases outlined by the MSBA.
If the towns vote to fund the feasibility study, it will be conducted from January 2015 to June 2015. After a year of gathering data, the group will report the findings back to the towns. The residents will then vote on whether to implement the committee’s recommendations for construction. Possible proposals include a new building or varying degrees of renovations.
Before any recommendations are made, however, the committee must convince residents that a feasibility study is necessary “I think some of the concerns are warranted and some of them have to do with some very personal opinions of not wanting to be part of the region anymore, wanting to partner with other communities,” Greene said.
“We have to take a look at current and projected enrollments. We need to make sure we are thinking out 10, 20 plus years,” MacDonald said. Currently, there are about 600 students enrolled at the school; in the past there have been up to twice that number.
The group hopes to partner with the New England School Development Council (NEDSEC) “to do a more expansive enrollment, demographic study on population trends and whether things are expecting to decline or stabilize,” Greene said.
Lanesborough residents have expressed concerns about the high costs of the building project at a time when “there is a desire to reduce the cost of education,” Greene said. In addition, low-income housing needs and high tax rates are troubling to people in Lanesborough and Williamstown.
Despite these concerns, MacDonald explained that in the upcoming years the board will have to take measures to improve some of the physical aspects of the school; it is simply a matter of who will be monetarily responsible and what form the renovations will take. If the school goes through with a project partnering with the MSBA, the MSBA will reimburse up to 55 percent of the expenses. If the towns vote not to partner with this group, then the towns will have to pay for the entirety of any updates to the school’s building. “There is no option of doing nothing, and the purpose of partnering with the state is that they will fund this,” MacDonald said.
A deteriorating school facility poses problems beyond its direct impact on the student body. For Williamstown and the College, having a good educational facility is “important for retaining and attracting faculty,” according to Greene.
“Williams sees its role in the community as very supportive, not necessarily always in a monetary way, but they are right there if we need advice,” Greene said. “I don’t know what their role will be if we proceed … I am sure they will be open to talk.”
Mt. Greylock High School suffers from a similar but more diverse set of problems. The school suffers from problems with the auditorium; the gym; the heating and ventilation systems; CO2, humidity and noise levels; and security. Earlier this year, the school was shut down for
two days due to problems dealing with the humidity.
“Every year we go without this [study], we are in risk of something major happening [to the building] that is going to cost a lot of money,” Consolini said. “We would be foolish to reject the opportunity to get this research done … we are gambling every day that we are in this facility.”