Mt. Greylock administers feasability study

 

Williamstown and Lanesborough will recieve state reimbursement to renovate Mt. Greylock. Photo courtesy of iBerkshires.
Williamstown and Lanesborough will recieve state reimbursement to renovate Mt. Greylock. Photo courtesy of iBerkshires.

With the approval of Williamstown, Lanesborough and the state government, Mt. Greylock has launched a study to evaluate the feasibility of renovating or rebuilding its infrastructure.

A model school for its first few decades, Mt. Greylock’s perceived educational quality had gone down in recent years. The Mt. Greylock school committee is hiring architects to assess the soundness of the school structures as well as predict the costs needed to renovate or rebuild them. The buildings need improvised heating and ventilation systems, but the school itself is going to be made smaller since it was originally built for an enrollment of 1200 students. Now it only has 600 students. Instead of building an “extravagant” school, according to Carrie Greene, staff at the College and a member of the Mt. Greylock School committee, the school just needs to be both structurally and technological appropriate for a “21st century learning environment.”

After the feasibility study, Mt. Greylock will have several options, each with its changes and potential cost. The communities of Williamstown and Lanesborough will be able to voice their preferences, and a final proposal will be sent to the state government. If both towns and the government approve, the school reconstruction will move forward.

However, there are several complications to the project, the biggest of which is financial. Williamstown and Lanesborough need to split the costs not covered by reimbursement from the state government. A similar project with the Monument Mountain High School in Great Barrington was declined twice because one of the towns was unwilling to pay the proposed amount.

The Williams College Fund for Mt. Greylock (WCF) was established by a family from the College community to help create and sustain innovative changes for the Mt. Greylock Regional High School. Williams College may be unable to provide aid to Mt.Greylock, as the state government might lower its reimbursement rate to offset the extra funding so that Williamstown and Lanesborough school districts have to pay the same amount.

“If the College wants to give money outright to a building project or even to the feasibility study, the State looks at that, and says: ‘Well you don’t need our money; you have their money!’ So [the State] essentially reduces their contribution to the project,” Greene said.

Although WCF’s funds are not going towards the building project itself, they are going to support Mt.Greylock’s technological innovation and human capital development. Over the past five years, the WCF funds donated to Mt. Greylock have totaled over $777,000. Mt. Greylock has used the contributions for investment in classroom technology, teachers’ professional development and instructional strategy. Almost all classrooms now have LCD projectors as visual aids in class, as well as digital applications to engage in teaching, paid for by grants from WCF. Other additions made possible by WCF include laptop carts and a garden for the school’s environmental science program. Teachers have also been sent to professional development programs. Most AP teachers have completed their AP instruction programs, and consultants have been hired to provide advice for changes in teaching strategies and in the course curriculum. Since WCF was founded, Mt. Greylock increased in both AP and Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) averages as students have tested better.

“Of course the increase in scores is not solely due to the donations,” Mt. Greylock’s principal Mary MacDonald said, “But they certainly play a large part.”

MacDonald is more concerned with the students’ levels of engagment in the classroom and abilities to apply their knowledge.

“It’s no use to have a teacher who knows everything about, say, biology, but fails to engage the students in class,” she said.

Mt. Greylock Regional High School is significant for the College not only because of its physical proximity, but also because of its role in attracting and retaining staff members who are also parents to school-aged children.

“The College employs a tremendous amount of people who want their children to receive a good secondary education,” Green said.

“Their top choice is probably Mt. Greylock, as it is the best school in the northern Berkshires, if not the entire county.  Although our school is a regional school between Williamstown and Lanesborough, even staff who live farther away, such as in North Adams, are quite inclined to send their kids to us,” MacDonald said.

Before the WCF was founded, the College had established a Williams Center at Mt. Greylock. College students regularly volunteer as tutors and teacher assistants, working with students both inside and outside the classroom. In that way Mt. Greylock is able to benefit from the resources of the College.

In return, however, Mt. Greylock also acts as a “canvas” for students from the College to apply their knowledge and gain insight and experience that will help them in the future. For instance, a math class taught by Professor Steven Miller is trying to use mathematical formulas to maximize learning efficiency by manipulating the current schedule. Solving problems in the community is a way for College students to “apply their learning” at Mt. Greylock.