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Design, Education Priorities Envisioned for Greylock/Brayton School Project
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
12:34PM / Thursday, December 22, 2022
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A half-dozen meetings, including four lengthy workshops this fall with school staff and stakeholders, is informing preliminary designs for the Greylock/Brayton school project. 
Among the takeaways is the importance of "agile" and flexible classrooms, security, outdoor connectivity, professional space, welcoming arrivals and breakout areas. Also listed as important were classroom neighborhoods, community access, wayfinding, quiet spaces, gathering hubs and STEM and STEAM makerspaces. 
David Stephen, principle of New Vista Design, told the School Building Committee on Tuesday that guiding priorities were developed and ranked during the four workshops with the overall goal of quality, equity education; support of social emotional learning, and student-centered learning.
"There's a good bit of alignment, in terms of what people feel like will best support the kinds of programs that you have at Greylock and Brayton," said Stephen, an architect and educational planner. 
Stephen and Julia McFadden of TSKP Studio provided the committee an outline of the current process and some of the findings in the 60-page report compiled from the four visioning workshops. 
"We started talking about educational priorities. We then connected that to ideas about design. We created a set of guiding principles and then we talked about adjacencies," said Stephen. "How all of this connects to the language that the district will be using as they write their educational plan."
McFadden said the firm's team of consultants, engineers, mechanical engineers, civil engineers have been doing accessibility and code reviews the two school buildings. A final report should be ready by late January, early February. 
What happens next, she said, is the designers will look at the educational programming and the physical review. This will include the amount and types of space in each of the two schools comparing that against building safety standards and "developing kind of the scenario around the school buildings, and how they best function with spaces to meet the educational goals," she said. 
Stephen said the team will look at the design priorities for the new school and how to best optimize the Massachusetts School Building Authority space template.
"By that we mean, what is the best adjacencies to give the school, the renovated and or new school," he said. "The best kind of sort of synergy between spaces that will give you flexibility and allow the school to evolve over decades to come."
Taking into account the desires for flexible classrooms, professional space and "classroom neighborhoods," Stephen showed the committee a layout of clustered classrooms around an open gathering space that also had a small "pullout" area and a small group classroom. 
Windows would allow for plenty of natural light and connectivity to the outdoors; furniture would be selected for durability and flexibility in different configurations. 
There was also discussion in the visioning groups about community use by creating areas that could be open to the public after hours by placing cafeterias and gyms together and closing off classroom areas. 
Traffic patterns for drop off and pickup, creating a welcoming central point for students and parents, and using signage, graphics and colors as wayfinding was also discussed. 
Matthew Sturz of Colliers International, the owner's project manager, said the project is currently in the middle of the feasibility study module, No. 3. 
"Module 3 is the feasibility study phase where we begin to look very conceptually at different ways that the available facilities, identifying their potential, meet the identified education drill program, identify the modifications that will be needed," he said. "And following that, once we've identified an option that we think is is the right choice for the district, we will begin to develop that to a higher level of detail in the schematic design phase, Module 4, following the feasibility study."
At that point, the committee will be looking for community input and begin developing support for funding. The City Council and MSBA will both to approve the project and agree to its scope and budget. 
Mayor Jennifer Macksey, chairman of the committee, thanked everyone who had participated in the meeting and visioning workshops. She said she had been a little concerned about the 2 1/2 hour length of the workshops but came away impressed. 
"That meeting was very engaging and informative. In the groups that we worked with, everyone was so thoughtful, and it was a great, great experience," said the mayor, adding "I think this is going to launch us definitely in the right direction as we develop this project."
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