On March 13, Mount Greylock Regional School District closed for two weeks in order to help stop the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). A few days later, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker closed all schools until April 7. On March 25, Baker announced that all Massachusetts schools will be closed until May 4.
Many students have been asking questions about the next steps for Mount Greylock, so the Echo talked to Principal MacDonald and Superintendent Grady to discuss these unknowns.
When MacDonald was asked about the original decision to close for two weeks, she answered, “We’re not a city, we’re a rural district… we closed based on recommendations of local health authorities.”
The superintendents of Berkshire County had a conference call on March 13 to discuss the issues surrounding our area. “We tried to do things collaboratively as a county,” MacDonald said.
Grady said she’s on calls with the Berkshire County superintendents every other day, and the North County superintendents everyday. “We’re monitoring things, we talk with the board of health. There are more cases in Berkshire county.”
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or the DESE, put in a rule that only five days will be added to the original last day of school. In a FAQ document on the website, MGRS confirmed that the last day of school will be June 23.
Another resource that the district has offered are Grab-and-Go lunches. These are available to anyone who needs them, not just students with accommodations at school. They are also prepared for senior citizens.
In a recent email to freshmen, MacDonald asked students to make cards for senior citizens, because many of them don’t have a way of getting in touch with other people.
MacDonald stressed that anyone can make these, and they are a kind gesture towards people who don’t have much company.
The lunches are available at either elementary school rather than the high school, since these are more central locations within Williamstown and Lanesborough. They can also be delivered to houses. See the email from Superintendent Grady for more information.
When asked about online work, Macdonald answered that they are “looking at the next stage.” She said that the teachers are putting together quality work, but only about 35-40 percent of students are engaged in the online activities. “We don’t know what the next step will look like… nothing’s final,” MacDonald said.
She also said it’s helpful that 8-12 graders have chromebooks, but they are still trying to figure out how to help the students without chromebooks or internet access. “We need to make it equitable for all students.”
Grady stressed the same issue, but she said that her team is putting together a plan for distance learning. “We’re working on trying to get a plan together,” Grady said. “Many people are working long, tireless hours.”
“This is an unprecedented time,” MacDonald said. “Rather than just throwing things together, we have to think carefully about what’s going to happen.”
Another thing Grady noted was that she personally can’t put out a plan for online learning. She has to take instructions from her commissioner, who is holding a meeting on March 26 to discuss more options for learning.
After being asked how the decision will be made to reopen schools, Grady said, “We have to keep things out until it is entirely safe for everyone.”
A meeting will take place tomorrow, March 26, for more announcements based on a remote learning strategy.
On March 19, MacDonald sent out a letter to the seniors expressing her empathy for these students who are in their last year of highschool. She wrote that graduation would be pushed back a week, because there is a rule that this celebration cannot occur a certain amount of time before the last day of school.
“And as we shift the date of graduation, we’ll also shift the events that help to celebrate your accomplishments. Some events may look different from what you have planned now,” Macdonald wrote. “But with your creativity and class spirit, I have no doubt that when you come together to celebrate, it will be magical and memory-making.”
Another issue the senior class faced was their deposits in companies for their senior trip to Boston. Coach Jordan, senior class advisor, didn’t want to risk not being able to refund this money later, so she communicated with the venues to reschedule and get possible refunds.
For more information on any of the issues surrounding the pause of school due to COVID-19, go to the district’s Coronavirus page at https://www.wlschools.org/page.cfm?p=1137, and MGRSD FAQs is on the right.