WILLIAMSTOWN — All-day prekindergarten and a diversity coordinator highlight the additions in the proposed $25.3 million budget for the Mount Greylock Regional School District starting July 1.
District administrators unveiled the operating/capital spending plan for fiscal 2022 before the School Committee on Thursday night. The proposal calls for adding $600,000 in total expenditures to the current overall budget of $24.7 million, a 2.4 percent increase.
The cost to district taxpayers is a 1.67 percent bump in assessment to Williamstown, raising the taxation amount from $12.1 million to $12.3 million.
Home and business owners in the other district town, Lanesborough, could see a $65,000 increase in the total assessment, bringing the proposed amount to $5.86 million, or a 1.1 percent increase.
A projected $3.5 million in direct state aid, Chapter 70 money, tuition, school choice money and other revenue will cover the rest of the budget.
In order for the budget to pass, each town must adopt its assessment at its respective annual town meetings this spring.
School District Superintendent Jason McCandless said he will have cost estimates for budget additions when the school board further reviews and debates the budget at its March 25 meeting.
McCandless said the need for all-day prekindergarten is there, identifying 52 potential students for the early childhood education at Williamstown Elementary School; 37 at Lanesborough Elementary. He noted that half-day prekindergarten still would be offered at both sites.
“The time is always right to make the very wisest short- and long-term investment in a community or district you can make [regarding] early childhood education,” he said.
McCandless added that the full-day prekindergarten would require hiring a prekindergarten teacher and paraprofessional for each school. The program would be free of charge and focus on special-needs students, youngsters from families facing financial difficulties and students learning English.
McCandless also was pushing hard for a full-time person to handle diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the district, especially in the middle and high school grades. The diversity coordinator proposal is, in part, a response to a pair of racially motivated incidents this school year at Mount Greylock Regional School. One of the incidents was a Zoom “bomb” originating from outside the district that disrupted a classroom and targeted a couple of students of color.
Initial reaction from School Committee members was positive.
“I think we need to pursue this position as soon as possible,” said Jose Constantine.
Julia Bowen said she wanted more details, adding, “We need to clearly define the position.”
The diversity coordinator is just one piece of the puzzle the district wants to assemble to make students and staff feel included, have equal opportunities and make all those on the three campuses feel included.
McCandless said a large portion of professional development money will be used for diversity training. The district would review its hiring practices, the curricula and learning materials to ensure that they meet diversity standards.
The district is working with two consultants to help formulate the diversity plan, he added.