WILLIAMSTOWN >> More than a decade in the making, the renovation of Mount Greylock Regional High School is finally underway.
State and local officials gathered on Friday to celebrate the beginning of work on a 133,000-square-foot building that will be a combination of new construction and the former school's gymnasium and auditorium.
"Digging up dirt, planting seeds, growing a building—that's what we're here to celebrate today," said Carrie Greene, chairwoman of the Mount Greylock School Committee. "But it's not just a building of course, it's a house of learning for our community of learners."
The project, which is expected to cost $64.8 million, was partly funded by a $33.2 million Massachusetts School Building Authority Grant and approved by voters in Lanesborough and Williamstown earlier this year.
"The towns came together to support our vision of what Mount Greylock should become," said Mark Schiek, chairman of the School Building Committee, later adding thanks to the residents of each town for their commitment to Mount Greylock.
Williamstown residents will pay for about two-thirds of the towns' obligations to the project, or about $22.3 million. This week, the district solidified a 2.96 percent interest rate on a $30 million bond, Greene said.
Simply repairing the current building was estimated to cost $58 million.
State Sen. Benjamin Downing said the values of a community can be seen in where it makes its investments.
"Today we are here to celebrate us coming together to take one of many critical steps that will ensure that kids up here in the northwest corner of the Berkshires go to school in a building that, when they step foot in it, they don't have to question whether or not their community values the education they're getting," Downing said.
Though demolition is already underway, actual construction of the new facilities is set to begin in the coming weeks. The project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2018.
Superintendent Douglas Dias said collaboration between community leaders "has really helped us all pride our students with a quality building and educational opportunity that will last generations."
The school is currently home to 565 students in grades 7 through 12, compared to some 1,200 who went to Mount Greylock when it opened.
Jack McCarthy, executive director of the MSBA, was also on hand and noted the constant advocacy of state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi and Sen. Benjamin Downing for school building projects.
McCarthy noted that he "always knew there was something magical about this place," referring to the recent designation of Mount Greylock as the home of a fictional wizarding school by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.
"I can see it, but you muggles probably can't," he joked.
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376