State Rep. John Barrett III, a Mount Greylock alumnus, and student Charlie McWeeny listen to another speaker during Wednesday's ribbon-cutting celebration.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Wednesday was homecoming day for state Rep. John Barrett III.
Barrett was one of the dignitaries asked to speak at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the recently expanded and renovated Mount Greylock Regional School.
Noting that the ceremony — forced indoors because of the threat of rain — was being held in one of the renovated portions of the middle/high school, Barrett said he was glad to be back to help the school celebrate its new era.
"I sat out there on our first day of school in 1961," Barrett said, indicating the seats of the auditorium. "I was part of the freshman class that was beginning this journey at Mount Greylock Regional High School. To see what has happened in that time and what has led up to this … everybody came together and put together this magnificent district as well as this school."
Barrett was joined on the stage Wednesday by the current vice chair of the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee, the former chair of the district's School Building Committee, the chief executive officer of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, Mount Greylock Superintendent Kimberley Grady and Principal Mary MacDonald and the parliamentarian of the school's Student Council.
Everyone who spoke recognized that the new Mount Greylock was the result of countless hours of volunteer effort and the support of voters in Lanesborough and Williamstown. And all acknowledged that while a new building is important, it is just part of the school's story.
"I first got to see the interior of the school on a tour with Principal [Mary] MacDonald," student Charlie McWeeny said. "The dark old cafeteria gave way to one with clear and efficient windows providing an abundance of light. The dismal entry way was replaced with a beautiful backdrop in the foyer. And the flexible learning spaces have replaced the random spots where students would attempt to study.
"Perhaps the most inspiring thing about the school, though, is what it has less of: less pollution and a reduced carbon footprint. We now have electric car chargers and a low-impact meadow that will help us achieve LEED certification and a building that is 50 percent more efficient than its predecessor — the minimum this community should be doing to address the climate crisis, but an important start that we hope will inspire other schools and building projects."
Wednesday's ceremony — held more than a year after the district began classes in the new school in September 2018 — was a time to celebrate the efforts of those who made it possible.
Former SBC Chairman Mark Schiek, who spent hundreds of hours in committee meetings and untold more out of public view over the last six years, noted that the building project did not begin when, in late 2013, Mount Greylock was invited by the MSBA to enter its building process. Schiek mentioned that the district's first statement of interest was submitted to the MSBA in 2006, the first of several unsuccessful efforts before Mount Greylock was able to secure partial state funding for what turned out to be a $64 million project.
"I don't think people realize how long this project took to come to fruition and develop," Schiek said. "This started multiple years ago, 10-plus years ago, with a group of individuals who had the vision to see the impending need here at Mount Greylock for a safer, more efficient and educationally supportive building."
MacDonald, who helped craft the educational plan that was part of the successful submission to MSBA, touched on how the new building helps serve the district's needs now and into the future.
"After extensive review of educational needs and in consideration of what teaching looks like today and is likely to look like in the future, faculty, staff, students and professionals with their specific expertise and community members shared ideas and prioritized design elements," MacDonald said. "They worked very closely with the designers of this building.
"The new Mount Greylock is exceedingly functional and flexible, so that it can accommodate traditional direct instruction, seminars, labs, individualized learning and workshops … The building's design allows students to learn in different ways as suited to the courses they're taking, as well as in their own styles. We're still discovering new ways to use the building, and we're looking forward to adapting as teaching and learning evolve."
McWeeny pointed out that it is Mount Greylock's faculty and staff who will fuel that evolution.
"A new school comes with smart boards, wireless printers and personal laptops, but it cannot inspire a love of learning," he said. "Mount Greylock Regional School has been and will continue to be an exemplary school — not for its building but for the people inside the building: our custodial staff, who keep the school in pristine condition; our cafeteria staff, who keep us fed; or our administration, who set and maintain standards.
"And above all, its teachers. I know my peers are glad to have shinier floors and clearer windows, but today we celebrate the fact that finally we have a building that reflects this greatness."
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