WILLIAMSTOWN -- Mount Greylock Regional School District is maintaining a proactive response to a "laundry list" of much-needed school improvements, a critical move in retaining its merit with its accreditation agency.
The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) is a private, self-regulatory membership organization that provides accreditation services for more than 2,000 public and private institutions, from pre-kindergarten through higher education, in the six-state region.
Accreditation is a voluntary process in the United States, but it is also considered a standard practice in school quality assurance, which is monitored and acknowledged by state and federal education departments.
The NEASC accreditation cycle renews every 10 years. Mount Greylock is up for re-accreditation in 2015, and will begin what is known as a self-study phase in September 2014.
However, the regional public middle and high school has faced ongoing scrutiny by the NEASC, carrying a "warning" status since 2005.
"The commission has had an ongoing concern that it hasn't seen a lot of progress [at Mount Greylock]," said Janet Allison, director of the NEASC Commission on Public Secondary Schools. She has been working directly with the district.
"We've been monitoring the school for several years for concern with its facilities," Allison said.
"During those years, for a variety of reasons, mainly budgetary, repairs and maintenance has not been done,"
"We now have a proactive building subcommittee of the School Committee. It includes members of community with backgrounds in architecture and curriculum who can help us develop short-term and long-term goals," Ellis said.
That committee, which is made up of about 15 members, is spearheaded by Mount Greylock School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Greene.
The superintendent said that after being in contact with the NEASC in October, the district was given "a laundry list" of 16 items to address. The issues primarily deal with infrastructure, from outdated chemistry labs to bathroom and other public spaces that are out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Ellis said the district will be "sending back a report with a response to each one [of the items]" this week.
Already, the district has begun to address some of these concerns. For example, the superintendent said the district is currently working to refurbish the out-of-code auditorium.
She said 100 percent of the school's exterior doors have been repaired, replaced and ensured to function properly, as have 90 percent of the school's interior doors.
The school also has begun putting a dent in chemistry lab upgrades by partnering with Clean Harbors, a Norwell, Mass.-based company, to help dispose of old and toxic chemicals. Ellis said the majority of chemicals found in the school's labs were more outdated than dangerous, but all were removed from classrooms last month. Eventually, the school will also have to upgrade the labs' water and gas lines and emergency wash stations.
In other efforts, Mount Greylock recently installed a new security system, which features a door buzzer-and-lock system and security cameras. Two restrooms were made ADA-compliant in 2012, and Ellis said the district will continue to work on the others this summer.
Allison said that because of regular communications, the NEASC commission is aware of the school's efforts.
Ellis said in the meantime, Mount Greylock and its School Committee will continue to develop long-term goals for bettering the 53-year-old school, and estimating the expenses to do so.
"The challenge is taking a 20th-century school into the 21st century," Ellis said.
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