Space troubles for virtual school
GREENFIELD — Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School officials had hoped to start the year by moving into the top floor of the Arts Block in downtown Greenfield. But complications with the space have thwarted that move.
School trustees Chairman Edward Berlin says that it’s now likely the trustees will need to look elsewhere for a downtown office.
“I’m disappointed. We were trying really hard to make it work,” he said. “There were just too many loose ends that we tried for a while to tighten up and we weren’t able to do it.”
Although the cyber school uses the Internet to teach students across the state, the school has always needed some physical space. For years, the school has used the top floor of the Greenfield School Department’s administrative offices building as a place for school leaders to work and hold meetings and for local students to come in for tutoring.
After the trustees voted last month to sign a lease with Arts Block property owner Edward Wierzbowski, they had hoped to be in the 3,000-square-foot space the first week of January. The board would have paid $2,000 per month in rent, with heat included.
But sprinkler system issues delayed Wierzbowski’s ability to secure a certificate of occupancy for the space. He said on Thursday that he received a temporary 30-day certificate last week.
Even so, trustees were concerned about an elevator that was overdue for inspection and the fact that snow and ice occasionally fall off the building during the winter, sometimes forcing an evacuation of occupants.
There was also a miscommunication between Wierzbowski and the trustees about who would pay for a camera and security system. And while the board thought that the landlord would be able to provide initial temporary partitions and then later build out permanent walls for offices, Wierzbowski said he only had enough money to do one or the other.
It’s unclear if the school will have to issue another request for proposals or instead pursue a contract with the other respondent: Donoghue Realty Co. Two potential downtown spaces through that company wouldn’t be available until after Feb. 1, said Berlin.
Continuing with Greenfield?
In November, the trustees gave their 90-day notice to the Greenfield School Department and have been planning to end a contractual agreement for administrative services.
But Berlin said this week he’s now hearing that school officials are interested in continuing their business relationship.
The Greenfield School Committee has not discussed the issue at any of its meetings. But Greenfield Superintendent Susan Hollins told virtual school trustees at their most recent meeting that she believes they should continue contracting with the school department for another year.
Berlin said that trustees are open to discussing all ideas. They’re also in conversations with The Management Solution, a school management services contractor that currently handles the business operations of the Gill-Montague Regional School District.
The Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School agreed last summer to pay the school department 7.5 percent of its student tuition payments for “central office” tasks like superintendent duties, special education administration, data services, payroll and financial management, grant development and personnel hiring.
Trustees have since proposed a revised contact that would reduce the amount of services and the payment, down to 3 percent. If the Greenfield School Committee adopts this new proposal, the virtual school board will pay just under $200,000 total by school year’s end.
You can reach Chris Shores at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 264