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Mount Greylock Still Negotiating with Union on Return to Classes
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
03:39AM / Friday, August 28, 2020
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional School Committee on Thursday agreed on a plan for the sports program at the middle/high school but failed to agree on an agreement with the district's teachers about a plan to resume school in September.
 
After meeting in executive session for more than 2 1/2 hours, the seven-member panel returned to open session to inform the audience viewing its virtual meeting that it would not, as planned, be taking a vote on a memorandum of agreement with the Mount Greylock Educators Association.
 
"We want to acknowledge first how much everyone … really needs more clarity on our fall plans," committee member Jamie Art said on behalf of the committee.
 
"We feel like we've resolved most of the issues, but out of respect for the process, we won't be voting tonight."
 
Art said the School Committee would schedule a meeting for Tuesday at 8 a.m., at which time it hopes to finalize an agreement. With the commonwealth's Open Meeting Law requiring meetings to be advertised at least 48 business hours in advance, Tuesday at 8 is the first possible time the School Committee could meet.
 
Moments after Art's announcement, Steven Miller, who already had voted in the minority of a 6-1 vote to go into executive session, also was the lone member of the committee voting against a motion to adjourn. In the past, Miller has advocated for public negotiations between the School Committee and MGEA, a notion that union leaders roundly rejected.
 
Earlier in Thursday's 4 p.m. meeting, the School Committee backed a proposal that will get the Mount Greylock athletic program going, in a modified format, in mid-September.
 
Athletic Director Lindsey von Holtz presented the School Committee with a plan to hold competitive seasons in the fall for the two traditional fall sports that fall into the commonwealth's low-risk category for COVID-19 transmission, cross country running and golf.
 
"I believe Mount Greylock can safely offer a competitive program [in those sports]," von Holtz said. "There seem to be other schools in Berkshire County also offering cross country and golf. A schedule would be possible."
 
On the other hand, she said it does not seem possible -- based on her communication with other administrators in the county -- to have a competitive season for soccer or volleyball in the fall.
 
For soccer and volleyball, which the commonwealth considers moderate-risk sports, von Holtz recommended a six-week practice program schedule for the fall with the possibility of holding a competitive schedule in what the MIAA has dubbed the "Fall II" period, from Feb. 22 to April 25.
 
Von Holtz told the School Committee at least twice that a practice season for soccer or volleyball in the fall would not preclude Mount Greylock from offering a competitive season in late winter and early spring.
 
Likewise, if the situation changes between now and mid-September and more Berkshire County schools decide to offer either volleyball or soccer in the fall, Mount Greylock could switch from a practice program to a competitive season in the traditional fall time frame.
 
As for football and Unified basketball, they are considered high-risk sports for transmission of the virus and high school competitions are not allowed in the commonwealth until the Fall II period at the earliest. But von Holtz' plan does include a fall program focused on conditioning and individual skill work for student-athletes interested in those sports.
 
"Allowing modified school athletic programs will allow students not only to develop the specific skills needed in their respective sports, but it will provide an opportunity for students to be physically active," von Holtz said. "Students will have the opportunity to be social and get away from screens while still maintaining proper distancing. I believe offering modified athletic programs will also help with the emotional and mental aspect of student health, which is especially important during this time."
 
In answer to a question from a committee member, von Holtz said there was nothing to preclude a student who is studying remotely from participating in an athletic program at the middle/high school.
 
Committee member Regina DiLego, after arguing that the School Committee should wait to talk about the decision on sports until after it decided how the school district would start the academic year, abstained in a 6-0-1 vote to approve von Holtz's proposal.
 
The committee had an agenda item posted to discuss the stipends for fall sport coaches, but learned that those stipends would be subject to negotiations.
 
In other business on Thursday, the School Committee approved change orders amounting to a little more than $31,000 on the multipurpose building under construction on the Mount Greylock campus.
 
Business Manager Joe Bergeron told the committee that the change orders were in part due to storm water management issues that became apparent during construction.
 
The building's general contractor already had done the additional work and was waiting on the committee to approve the added expense, noted Carolyn Greene, a member of the committee's Finance Subcommittee.
 
"The work is done," she said. "It's not like they're waiting to do the work for this change order. And that's because of various transitions and the way things have shaken out. They were expecting approval, and we had delays."
 
Al Terranova, before voting in a 7-0 majority to approve the change order, expressed frustration at seeing the cost of the building go up.
 
"My issue is that we should be on top of the game," Terranova said. "At our last meeting we had where somebody talkd about [the multipurpose building], I asked, how are we doing, and the answer back was that we were possibly at or below budget. Now we can't say that anymore.
 
"I just want everyone to know we're not on budget like we were two weeks ago or three weeks ago or whenever this came up."
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