STOCKBRIDGE -- Around noontime on weekdays, Stockbridge regulars may notice more young people populating downtown lunch counters, shops and basketball courts.
Off-campus lunch and playground privileges are among the new experiences offered to Great Barrington Waldorf High School students since the school moved into its new location at 14 Pine St.
PHOTO GALLERY | Waldorf's new home
The school held two days of classes last week and is running its first full week of classes in Stockbridge this week.
The Waldorf High School is a private school which, since it was incorporated in 2003, has operated in the upper floor of the Christian Science Church building located at 454 Main St. in Great Barrington.
Over the past two-and-a-half years, as class sizes have increased, the Waldorf school's board of trustees has been pondering a move to a larger location, said Steve Sagarin, the faculty chairman and a history and art teacher.
But when the church building was sold to the McTeigue & McClelland jewelry business back in July, the school's moving process hastened. Waldorf students and staff started the school year in September in temporary Great Barrington quarters at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire and the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School, its sister elementary-middle school.
"We looked at three dozen properties. The last one we looked at happened to be here," Sagarin told The Eagle.
"It took a while to imagine leaving Great Barrington," he said, "but at the same time, it also made sense."
The school currently enrolls 36 students from the Berkshires and neighboring communities of Connecticut and New York, as well as two German exchange students.
The Waldorf trustees signed a two-year lease last Tuesday, which allows them full use of the entire first floor of the former Reuss Audubon Gallery, approximately 3,500 square feet -- about 1,000 square feet more than the church building.
The Pine Street structure, built in 1900, includes a ballroom space, which is currently used a classroom/theater rehearsal/art space, and has three additional classrooms, a faculty space and a reception area. There are three residential units rented by other tenants on the upper floors. The building also has a basement, which the school has the option of renovating and leasing.
Located at the corner of Pine and Shamrock streets, the new school is within walking distance of Main Street shops, public parks and the library.
Sagarin said the Waldorf school is looking forward to sharing programs and resources with the Stockbridge community. For example, the school will host a concert with Cuban group Obsesión on Friday night at the town's First Congregational Church.
Seniors Arthur Seltzer, Mac Litishin and Milena Stanton have spent their whole high school careers in the Waldorf community. They said they like the new space.
"I like being closer to a downtown," Litishin said. But they also added that they believe students and staff would thrive anywhere.
"The feeling of belonging somewhere comes from more than just the school space," said Seltzer.
Stanton said the school's nine seniors may have begun high school four years ago with their differences, "but we've become a family."
Students and staff will still use off-campus facilities for instruction, like the chemistry and biology laboratories at Bard College at Simon's Rock, studio spaces of their community partners for art instruction and other fields and courts for athletic programs.
But from their perspective, Waldorf teachers say the new Stockbridge building affords them better instruction space where they can store class materials -- something they couldn't do in their previously rented spaces.
"I love it. It's our own place to move about in," said history, theater and English teacher Beth Robbins.
Physics teacher Ann Marie Genco agreed. "It's light and airy and beautiful here. I think it has a lot of possibilities."