Greylock Elementary construction clears first hurdle

Greylock Elementary School is in the pipeline to receive funding for renovations through the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

NORTH ADAMS — After months of pandemic-related delay, a state-supported building project at Greylock Elementary School finally has kicked into gear.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority accepted Greylock into its selective school renovation and construction pipeline last year, but the coronavirus outbreak delayed the first phase of a multiyear process.

Planning began in earnest with the first meeting of a new building committee in late October, according to an update Wednesday from North Adams Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Roberts-Morandi.

“At this time, we’re not going to be designing a building,” Roberts-Morandi told members of the School Committee.

The initial eligibility period “is really about creating the philosophical approach and getting onto paper what we envision the education of students to look like in the future.”

That process of imagining the future of education at Greylock, located at 100 Phelps Ave., begins amid a steep decline in the district’s enrollment during the pandemic and after years of trying to get on the state’s repair list.

In an update to the committee on enrollment and hybrid learning, Roberts-Morandi said the district is down 74 students from this time last year, with a total of 1,291 students enrolled. She reassured the committee that the MSBA will look at long-term enrollment trends for the Greylock project, not just the recent decline.

Roberts-Morandi also said the district recently has approved five additional home-schooling requests, which came “with indicators from the families that they do plan to return children to school next year” if traditional in-person learning can restart safely by then.

Several families enrolled in remote learning have asked to move their kids into the hybrid model, according to Roberts-Morandi, and the school will handle those requests on a first-come, first-served basis if there are openings at the student’s assigned school.

Asked about snow days, Roberts-Morandi told the committee that, in the event of school closures, the district will shift to fully remote learning rather than altering the academic calendar.

Greylock’s first phase of construction

By the time the stamp of approval came through last December, North Adams had been trying for years to get Greylock Elementary School into the MSBA’s Capital Pipeline.

The program helps school districts renovate old buildings or construct new ones by providing technical support and reimbursing some project expenses.

Greylock, which has not seen major construction since the 1960s, managed to secure an invitation to the program on its fifth attempt. And when the coronavirus pandemic hit this spring, the state allowed district officials to delay the first phase of the process to the fall.

During the nine-month eligibility period, which began Sept. 1, the new Greylock Elementary School Building Committee will put together a long-term education plan and submit projected enrollment numbers to the state. Also, committee members will solicit input from the community to help determine the scope of the construction.

“We do want to make sure people understand this is nonbinding,” Roberts-Morandi said. “This is just the opportunity we have to say to the MSBA, ‘Here’s what we would like for the students.’”

The first phase of the project should wrap up in late May, at which point the school could begin a feasibility study. The entire process is expected to take five to seven years to complete.

Greylock Elementary School was built in the 1950s and was expanded in the next decade. There have been no major renovations since, and school officials have said that the building does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Francesca Paris can be reached at fparis@berkshireeagle.com and 510-207-2535.