County must explore other education models
To the editor:
On any given day, one can read an article in The Eagle concerning financial challenges faced by Berkshire County schools. Articles involve closure of schools due to decline in student population; proposals for reuse of these schools; budget constraints associated with modernizing or rebuilding older schools; cutting programs in specific districts due to revenue shortfalls; and initiatives to combine administrations in adjoining towns.
Ten-year census projections in the county suggest a significant and disconcerting reduction in student population. Maintaining current town-based schools is unsustainable. There will not be sufficient revenues to provide full programming in each school. Berkshire towns cannot afford the increasing costs associated with modernizing every school. The projected Berkshire County towns' tax base cannot meet either the physical building or educational program requirements under its current town(s) structure.
The state and Berkshire County districts must seriously examine other models for delivery of education in the 21st century. One approach is a county-based system, with school programming conducted at that level. Administration of educational programs would be allocated within this county framework, creating enormous efficiencies. This would put resources into areas of the county where they are needed, and this would create more equitable educational opportunities.
Concurrently, educational facilities would need to be evaluated, county-wide, to determine which buildings are physically adequate, and which buildings should be closed. To that end, educational facilities can (like BCC is doing), be located in non-traditional settings, utilizing underutilized store fronts or other buildings.
Berkshire County taxpayers must consider real alternatives.