Thursday July 26, 2012

GREAT BARRINGTON -- The Berkshire Hills Regional School District will convene meetings this week and next to discuss a proposal to upgrade its 44-year-old high school.

Today, the district's school building committee will submit a preliminary design proposal to the school committee at its 7 p.m. meeting.

On Aug. 2 at 6 p.m., the district will sponsor a public information forum on the project, during which building committee members, district administrators and project leaders will be present.

"This is an opportunity to get involved. We've come up with a range of possibilities," said Peter Dillon, the district's superintendent.

The preliminary design proposal is the result of a feasibility study of the school conducted by project manager Strategic Building Solutions and Cambridge-based architectural firm Symmes, Maini & McKee Associates.

If the preliminary design proposal is approved by the school committee tonight, the building committee can forward it on to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which is working with the building committee to address the high school's needs.

"But even sending it to MSBA does not mean we're committing to anything," said Richard Coons, chairman of the school building committee and vice chairman of the school committee.

The building committee includes about 20 teachers, administrators, school committee members and representatives of the community at large.


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Coons said there are five potential options to address the school's aging infrastructure, from no new construction to building a new facility, to a combination of renovations to the existing structure.

Those needs may also incorporate any changes the school committee makes to the high school's educational program. The district has been discussing the possibility of adding new vocational education programs such as a culinary program, which may require specific facilities.

"The big thing we want to accomplish [as a building committee] is that we want input. We want people to comment on what we've done and where we are. We don't want to make decisions in a vacuum," said Coons. "The general consensus agrees that we need to do something with the high school. It's 40-something years old and the systems supporting it are tired."