PITTSFIELD -- City school officials view residents as the driving force behind the design of a new-look Taconic High School.

This evening, the Pittsfield School Building Needs Commission will host a public input session starting with a tour at 6 p.m. followed by an overview of the planning process to date, with attendees breaking up into smaller groups to outline what they want to see in a renovated or new Taconic.

A second meeting at 6:30 p.m. July 21 will focus on the four options the design team has developed for Taconic, which include a new high school costing upward of $90 million. Both gatherings will be held in the school cafeteria.

Pittsfield Public Schools Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless wants significant citizen comment on the future of what will be a comprehensive secondary school.

"These meetings are not only for you to learn about the project, but put your fingerprint on the project," he said.

"Building a high school is a huge deal -- it only happens once in a half-century," added Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, also a member of the Pittsfield School Committee.

Taconic was completed in 1969, the last public school building erected in the city.

The two meetings are part of the ongoing feasibility study jointly conducted by Pittsfield and the Massachusetts School Building Authority to determine which options are educational and financially sound.

On July 28, the commission will vote to submit one of the options to the SBA for review, with final approval from the state agency anticipated in January.


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The City Council is expected to vote on the scope of the project and funding agreement in February 2015.

Commission co-chair Kathleen A. Amuso urges public comment from all demographics, as the project will help shape Pittsfield for decades to come.

"I have invited people I thought would be interested as it's a community project," Amuso said. "Parents of college prep students should be going, parents of vocational students should be going."

Representatives of the project's architect firm, DRA of Waltham, recently unveiled the four proposals for a new or refurbished Taconic High School.

The first proposal calls for basic repairs and upgrades, ranging in cost between $25-45 million, but they don't address the educational improvements needed at Taconic, according to DRA officials.

The renovation and expansion concept calls for one- and two-story additions between the existing school and Valentine Road -- with an estimated cost between $60-$70 million.

The third scenario, with an expected price tag of $80-$90 million, involves erecting a three-story academic/vocational building across from Taconic's main entrance. Except for the gymnasium and auditorium, the rest of the existing school would be demolished and what's left would be renovated and linked to the new building.

The fourth option -- and most expensive to date at $85-$95 million -- shows a completely new school, including the three-story academic/vocational building, which would benefit Taconic's athletic programs.

School Committeewoman Cynthia Taylor called on the public to carefully review all four options.

"Make yourself knowledgeable about each proposal," Taylor said. "The project is our future, not just for the schools but the whole city."

Project consultant, Skanska USA, has submitted the four proposals and the rest of the preliminary design program to the SBA. Designing options is the latest step in the feasibility study to determine the best way to upgrade or build a new Taconic.

Two weeks ago, the commission approved the preliminary design program that also includes the project's educational plan listing the 12 vocational and technology programs at Taconic. The Pittsfield School Committee finalized the plan in late May.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.