A report over a year in the making concerning the possibility of having a one-campus North Adams school was submitted to the North Adams School Board Tuesday night by the NA Facilities Study Committee.
Trois Hart represented the committee, many members of whom where present in the audience, in making the report which was tabled by the board members so they could, as board president Tim Ehlerding noted, "absorb the information" and study the proposal.
Primarily, the proposal, which did not contain any cost figures, would promote having a single campus that would have high school, middle school, and elementary school students in one location.
Hart praised the work of the committee that was compromised of board members Deb Bergman and Ben Faurote, NA teachers Kyle Eichenauer, Kathy Veit, and John Fox, principals Neal Rich and Scott Miller, administration representatives Superintendent Dr. Wylie Sirk, transportation director Larry Carty and Kim Fullove, parents Trois Hart and Juan Gutierrez, and community representative Larry Macklin.
Hart noted that the committee started working on the proposal over a year ago and there were "multiple and lengthy sessions."
The committee's work led it to align the benefits of four core areas for developing a single-campus concept, which included welcoming, inviting and global experiences, having college and career ready students, providing a family and community engagement, and a look at cost efficiency.
Dr. Sirk pointed out the group examined the purpose and usage of North Adams' facilities and early on in the process toured all NA areas to personally identify current buildings and resources. He said several professionals were asked to speak to the committee as to the needs of area businesses and industries and how the NA facilities impacted the delivery of education and training for students to be college and career ready when they graduated.
Hart stressed that the report was strictly preliminary and that the charge to the committee was not in coming up with how much the project, if approved, would cost. She said there would be questions yet to be addressed including "where do we put all our kids and what do we do with the other buildings (Northwest and Southeast schools)."
Committee member Macklin, who is director of the Adams County Economic Development Corporation, sat in for Carty in delivering an analysis of the report and succinctly noted. "When education succeeds, job growth does as well. There's an old saying that tomorrow is today and we need to be visionary about this."
Macklin said his views represented the economic development view of the committee and as a side note related that a delegation of representatives from China will soon be visiting Decatur (in an attempt to establish a sister city relationship).
"One of the people in the group is the director of their educational bureau. One of the first places they told us they wanted to visit was our school system," he said.
Hart said she understood the prospect of having a single campus is not new to Adams County as a whole, but would be to the North Adams district since Adams Central and South Adams both have all three schools in one building. South Adams changed several years ago while AC has done it for a long time.
She called for the school board to "think out of the box" to determine "where we are today and where we could be."
Dr. Sirk noted that the board needs to take its time in reviewing the findings and Ehlerding agreed saying the board should wait until the newly elected board members take office in January so they could add their input.
Should the board decide to continue, there would have to be a feasibility study done so the district could get an idea of what the costs would amount to.
Faurote pointed out the committee did discuss the cost of keeping current buildings functional and Miller added that "factors that need to be considered include where is education heading and can our facilities handle it? The conclusion we came to on the committee is to have one campus."
Near the end of the lengthy discussion at last night's North Adams board meeting, some fireworks came when board President Tim Ehlerding asked if there were any comments from the audience.
Charlie and Jean Brune, local residents who have attended a great majority of NA board meetings in recent years, took advantage of the offer.
Charlie Brune called the one-campus move "a great idea. Our research shows that a K-12 school is the best environment for our kids."
Then Brune proceeded on with his comments, noting, "While I really think this is a good idea, the one thing that has been skipped and no one in this room tonight has mentioned is the need to get the community involved."
Bringing up a topic of past meetings (when Monmouth School was closed and the configuration was changed so that grades K-2 were all diverted to Southeast and grades 3-5 to Northwest), Brune engaged in a verbal battle with Ehlerding.
Brune began by saying, "When you get into the reconfiguration..." and that phrase immediately caused Ehlerding to hammer down his gavel and say. "I'm closing the public discussion of the meeting tonight."
Brune tried to challenge Ehlerding's decision, saying, "I have the floor" but the gavel again was hammered with the board president again repeating his decision. Several board members tried to diffuse the difference but discussion on the issue was soon over.
Board member Deb Bergman pointed out she agreed with Brune that "if we continue on with this proposal, the community will have to be sold on it," a position on which both board members Stacy Bussel and Ben Faurote agreed.
Board member Michelle Stimpson was unable to attend Tuesday night's meetieng.