Adams-Cheshire proposes Lanesborough switch districts

On Sept. 30, the Adams-Cheshire School District made an official partnership proposal to the Lanesborough district that would integrate Lanesborough students into Adams-Cheshire schools.

Under the plan, Lanesborough, which has an elementary school but no middle or high school, would send its students to Hoosac Valley Middle and High School in Cheshire, rather than Mount Greylock Regional School, which currently educates Williamstown and Lanesborough students in grades seven through 12.

If enacted, the proposal claims that it could save both Lanesborough and Adams-Chesire at least $5 million over the next five years, before a tuition reassessment in the sixth year of the deal. The move could also allow Hoosac Valley to increase its staff and fund new programs and initiatives for the students.

Differences in cost are complicated by achievement differences reflected in each school’s test scores. Mount Greylock’s high school performs better than that of Hoosac Valley in every subject on state examinations, and generally surpasses state averages for test performance. Mount Greylock also ranks higher than Hoosac Valley in student growth evaluations conducted across the state. Statistics comparing the school districts can be found on a website created by the Mount Greylock Regional School District.

The decision could affect every resident in Lanesborough, even those without school-aged children. Mount Greylock is also ranked within the top 50 high schools in Massachusetts by U.S. News & World Report, which could play a significant role in Lanesborough’s growth. Mount Greylock’s high achievement levels are also a boon to Lanesborough property values, and these property values could drop if Lanesborough students continue their education at a lower-ranked school.

Meanwhile, Mount Greylock Regional School is planning a renovation and addition. Jack McCarthy, the executive director of the Massachusetts State Building Authority (MSBA), which recently voted to move the school’s plans into the schematic design phase, told The Berkshire Eagle, “The improvements at Mount Greylock Regional School will mean a better learning and teaching location for area students and teachers.” If the Lanesborough-Williamtown school system is dissolved, the approval would be lost, and the MSBA application process would have to begin anew.

With concerns over Mount Greylock’s renovation looming, the school must make a decision  in a timely fashion.

“I am all in favor of doing research, gathering data and making an informed decision,” Steven Miller, associate professor of mathematics and Mount Greylock Regional School committee member said, but he believes that that research should be used to make that decision quickly. “With all of these discussions, we have taken a lot of time dealing with this issue,” he said.

A timely decision may also be important to the College, which supports Mount Greylock heavily with tutors, programming advice, the provision of facilities and mentors for special programs and the funding of innovative initiatives through The Williams Center at Mount Greylock and the Williams College Community Fund for Mount Greylock. Dramatic changes in Mount Greylock’s enrollment may affect these collaborations between the school and the College.

“There is a real community that has been built between the two towns,” Miller said, which he believes would continue even if the proposal were accepted by Lanesborough. “It would take a while for the region to be broken up.”

In a press release on Aug. 19, Mount Greylock Superintendent Douglas Dias expressed his admiration of this bond.

“Mount Greylock is a great school,” Dias said. ”It makes sense to remind the community of the successes embedded in the collaboration between Lanesborough and Williamstown.”

Williamstown and Adams-Chesire both stand to benefit from having Lanesborough students in their districts, and both can make a case for being the best option for the Lanesborough school district and the town itself.

“I happen to believe Mount Greylock is the best option for people in both Williamstown and Lanesborough,” Miller said. Though there has been no word in favor or rejection of the proposal from the towns of Adams, Cheshire or Lanesborough, it will require all three towns and their school districts to determine what factors and benefits they consider most important to their districts and the success of their students’ educations.

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