A committee has been assembled at North Adams Community Schools to study and review the school district's current use of buildings and grounds, with the goal of returning recommendations a year from now that will guide school leaders in making long-term decisions regarding housing students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
Superintendent of Schools Wylie Sirk said the committee met last week for the first time and will conduct a series of meetings over the next 12 months in an attempt to identify infrastructure needs that ultimately will provide the greatest and most cost-effective learning opportunities for students. Projections will be made to address needs that currently are 10 years in the future, said Sirk.
The 14-member committee is chaired by Sirk. Members include school board representatives Ben Faurote and Deb Bergman; North Adams Community Schools Business Manager Larry Carty; community representatives Trois Hart, Juan Gutierrez and Larry Macklin; teachers Kyle Eichenauer, Kathy Veit and John Fox; school district principals Scott Miller and Neal Rich; and North Adams Early Childhood director Kim Fullove.
Sirk said the function of the Facilities Study Committee is similar to that of a financial advisory group assembled in 2009. That group was charged with identifying areas in which the school district could trim expenditures. That committee returned recommendations that represented cost savings of some $1 million annually and included the suggestion that one elementary school be closed. The school board ultimately voted to shutter the Monmouth school building.
School board member Deb Bergman in May of this year recommended closing another school building — she suggested Southeast Elementary — as the school district continues to attempt to cut costs amid declining state revenues and dwindling enrollment.
At the May board meeting, Bergman said building utilization at Southeast at the end of last school year was at 57 percent, while Northwest Elementary was at 73 percent capacity. She recommended the board consider housing grades K-3 at Northwest, grades 4-7 at Bellmont Middle School, and grades 8-12 at Bellmont High School.
Bergman at the time said her long-term goal is to create a single-campus facility for all North Adams students.
Sirk said the newly-formed Facilities Study Committee will look at current buildings "to see what changes are necessary for effective, efficient and appropriate long-term use." The group will provide a written analysis of the "strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats" related to building use throughout the district, he said, and will identify projected costs or savings that would result from any changes.
Oral reports to the school board and the public will be presented at the mid-way point and at the conclusion of the study, said Sirk.
The committee's next task will be a physical tour of all North Adams facilities, the superintendent said.