ADAMS -- When the Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School held its first graduation in 2008, it had just nine students.
Now in its 10th year, the school is poised to begin its first-ever expansion to accommodate its growth: Currently it hosts 330 students in Grades 6-12 from 15 communities
"I'm giddy to think about how this can change our school, and only for the better," Executive Director Julia Bowen said.
Students, faculty and board members held a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday for the project -- a 10,500-square-foot addition on the existing building's north side and a 5,500-square-foot renovation. The two-story addition features a cafeteria and half-court gymnasium, which will double as an auditorium, and includes a stage for performances. Located above the cafeteria will be two fitness rooms and changing rooms.
The project was designed by Greenfield's Margo Jones Architects and David J. Tierney Jr., Inc. of Pittsfield was recently chosen as the construction firm. Construction will begin this spring, with renovations complete for the 2014-15 school year. The expansion work will last into the fall.
The $3.8 million project, funded by donations, foundations and a loan, will mark the end of the multipurpose room used as a cafeteria, gymnasium and auditorium, dubbed the "cafegymatorium" by the BART administration.
"This will be a joyful place for students; a place where they can display their talents and can participate in activities such as theater, and sports in a place to actually exercise in the facility," Bowen said.
Officials also referred to a new partnership with Main Street Stage as bringing more opportunities to students and the community.
Junior Kyleigh Castagna of Pittsfield spoke of personal growth she's achieved since she enrolled at BART as an eighth-grader.
"I was that girl who didn't talk unless she had to," she said.
The expansion will provide students more space to be a unique individual, she said.
"It means we can have gym class without worrying about conflicting schedules," Castagna said. "We have a space where we can have drama and musical performances, and talent shows, space to have all the arts... we've done our job as students, and we will get a bigger school so we can work even harder."
Adams Town Administrator Jonathan Butler spoke of BART in relation to the other Northern Berkshire school options, which includes Adams-Cheshire Regional School District and the Northern Berkshire Regional Vocational School District. Families looking to move here can see "education for every student, for every type of learner," he said.
He added the project fits into the economic developments downtown, which include new restaurants and events.
"This project will be a nice complement and hopefully bring more nightlife and vibrancy into our community," he said.
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