There is no disputing that Monument Mountain Regional High School must have an infrastructure upgrade. School and Berkshire Hills Regional School District officials have produced a plan that accomplishes this while adding features that will carry the school well into the 21st century. The state will pay 48 percent of the project's estimated $55.7 million. This is an opportunity for the BHRSD that may not come around again soon, if ever.
The 47-year-old high school is not energy efficient, falls short of safety standards and doesn't meet contemporary building codes. In addressing these issues, the plan also expands areas for music and art, moves the library to a central location and creates an up-to-date science wing. This last component is a major selling point as advances in science move quickly and students who benefit from these science classrooms will have a leg up in finding employment in a growth field.
South Berkshire County is defying the largely aging demographic of the region, and with school enrollment holding steady, if not climbing slightly in the years ahead, the high school will not be underused. The project is coming in at a cost of $305 per square foot according to district officials, and for comparison purposes, nine other state projects are costing between $258 and $385 per square foot, based on Massachusetts School Building Authority figures.
The $30.5 million cost of the project to the member towns of Great Barrington, Stockbridge and West Stockbridge would to a large extent be borne by Great Barrington, which already has several other projects on its plate. While there is never an ideal time to raises taxes, in the case of the school, the renovation will provide tangible benefits to students and parents in all three towns. The outstanding high school that will result should also draw families to the district's town, building the tax base. Significantly, the boards of Selectmen and Finance Committees in all three towns have endorsed the project.
The district could take a piecemeal approach to bringing the school up to code but this would eliminate the educational improvements and the projected cost of $41 million could go higher over the years. There would also be no state money, and if the current proposal is rejected, the roughly $25 million in state funding will go elsewhere and the BHRSD will move to the back of the MSBA's funding list.
The Eagle endorses a "Yes" vote on the project and on the Proposition 21 2 override on Tuesday. This project will long benefit the BHRSD.