Letter: Students first in school design process
To the editor of THE EAGLE:
As a Pittsfield resident, I was pleased to see the potential, in the presentation by DRA Architects at the recent School Building Needs Commission meeting, for a great open community dialogue to finally emerge about what is really desired in a high school, particularly from the mouths of those who will occupy that building.
A healthy discussion is all the more crucial given the short six month timetable being projected for putting forth the city’s preferred option to the state. Mayor Bianchi, school officials, and students themselves have all recently emphasized the importance of vigorous inclusion of Pittsfield students in the process of public input. In my opinion, this sentiment cannot be echoed too loudly or too often going forward in this process.
Since enrollment figures are one of, if not the most significant factor in how many and what programs, as well as what kind of facilities can feasibly be funded and built to accommodate these programs, it is imperative to obtain real information from the students themselves on what kind of programs, vocational, technical, or otherwise, they would enroll in if available. I would strongly suggest that this process not only include anecdotal comment-taking from students, but detailed survey research from students at all of the public high schools and middle schools, the latter of whom will be some of the first graduating classes of any new or renovated high school. Quantifiable, relevant data is not an unreasonable deliverable to ask for given the significant sum of taxpayer dollars involved in this feasibility study, and it is the responsibility of the SBNC to stipulate what information it needs to draw informed conclusions on an endeavor of this magnitude.
While it will fall to the grown ups and experts to hammer out the many practical concerns, budget constraints and design necessities, this planning would be done best if informed by a vision that stems at least partly from the thoughts and aspirations of the people for whom this structure is actually being designed.
I believe that something great could be achieved in this process, but only if the community can come together to discuss their different perspectives while making sure to keep foremost in mind at all times just who this project is really supposed to be for.
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