Monday October 29, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Prior to choosing an option for a renovated or new Taconic High School, the city and state must agree on what the students will learn -- especially on a vocational level -- according to Pittsfield school officials.

Later this week, the local School Building Needs Commission plan to review and debate the future course of study at both city high schools. Once the commission develops a revised curriculum, it will be forwarded to state educational officials for approval.

The commission will meet Thursday at 5;15 p.m. in the Pittsfield High School library. The meeting was originally scheduled for this afternoon, but postponed on Sunday due to the severe weather forecast for the Berkshires.

The education plan is the final step of the commission and Massachusetts School Building Authority’s collaboration on laying the groundwork toward determining the type and price of a high school project.

However, the SBA hasn’t when the full-feasibility study would begin in order to estimate the cost of the project.

Today’s meeting will focus primarily on a consultant’s recommendation for a revamped Pittsfield vocational education in relation to what type of project is built on the Taconic campus, according interim school Superintendent Gordon L. Noseworthy.

"We need a critical conversation of what the programs will be like in the school as the SBA expect you to build a building around your curriculum," he said.


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In April, The New England School Development Council recommended the city should revamp its high school vocational education in order to meet the area’s workforce needs for the next decade. State education officials now want that report rolled into the school district’s overall education plan that was revised last year.

City school officials say the revised plan needs to include an increased financial obligation to vocational education.

"It’s important to focus on what we provide kids so they can have a good job out of high school or college," said Noseworthy, who also co-chairs the School Building Needs Commission.

Finalizing an updated education plan would complete a two-year preliminary study that also included assessing the physical condition of the current 43-year-old Taconic and more than 80-year-old Pittsfield High.

Commission co-chair Kathleen A. Amuso hopes to forward the plan to the state by year’s end.

"We have had some pretty significant progress with the state and [Noseworthy] has done a lot of work to move toward a feasibility study," Amuso said.

Once the preliminary review is complete, the full feasibility study would begin, which will estimate the cost of several options the commission is considering for the Taconic site. Among the options are renovating, renovating with additions, building a new school or doing nothing.

If a project is approved, the state will reimburse the city 78 percent of the construction cost.

The commission has said the full feasibility study could take up to 18 months.

While the SBA process forced the city to put forth just one high school for consideration, the state agency has viewed both Pittsfield High and Taconic as part of any overall building project proposal, which most city and school officials have been advocating from the beginning.

Even though Pittsfield High, built in 1931, is nearly twice as old as Taconic, which was built in 1969, SBA officials have said they prefer to renovate, rather than replace, Pittsfield High because architecturally and physically it’s in better condition than Taconic.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.