Showing admirable resilience, the Berkshire Hills Regional School Committee has produced a revised renovation project for Monument Mountain Regional High School. It is still ambitious, though less so, and deserves a fair chance from voters.
The project will cost $51.2 million, as opposed to the $55.6 million for the original project that fell short when Great Barrington voters rejected the funding mechanism for it. The state would reimburse the district for 48 percent of the cost, or $24.3 million, and by extending the bond financing of the project from 20 years to 25 years, the annual payment by taxpayers would be reduced. On average, taxpayers in Great Barrington would be assessed 26 percent less than in the original plan, 30 percent less in Stockbridge, and 18 percent less in West Stockbridge. The latter two district communities voted to approve the original proposal.
The high school must be brought up to the standards established by state and federal building codes. Beyond that, the district wants to update the school so it meets the increased educational demands that result from an increasingly competitive, global workplace. The new science laboratories proposed in the original project and in the amended one would be particularly desirable given that industries like biotech and telecommunications will continue to grow and demand a trained workforce. Monument Mountain would be giving its students a leg up on many others when they apply to top colleges. In keeping the laboratories and greenhouse, the district is dropping and simplifying other proposals to reduce the project's cost.
The vote for the project is tentatively set for November 4 to coincide with the state and national elections. This gives the BHRSD time to make its case to voters, and it gives time for voters to consider it seriously. Great Barrington has had many costly projects to assess in recent years, but voters should consider the long run and the big picture in evaluating this new BHRSD proposal.