DALTON — The following Q&A is based on interviews with leaders of the Central Berkshire Regional School District and information on their website.
Q.: What's this vote about?
A.: To decide whether to pay up to $850,000 to study whether to renovate or rebuild Wahconah Regional High School in Dalton, a grades 9-12 facility built in 1961 that educates students from the seven-town district.
Q: Who makes the decision?
A: In voting Saturday, residents in each of the towns — Becket, Cummington, Dalton, Hinsdale, Peru, Washington and Windsor — will say yes or no to the study. A simple majority of all votes cast in all towns will decide the issue.
Q: Who pays for the study?
A: The state is expected to reimburse up to 54 percent of the cost, leaving roughly half of the cost, $425,000, to be paid by taxpayers in district towns. The costs to towns will be on a proportional basis, given the number of students they send to the district.
Q: How does the district justify the need for this study?
A: School leaders cite a mix of problems, from a roof that is 20 years past its expected lifespan to deteriorating infrastructure, including an outmoded auditorium, substandard locker rooms, handicap access problems and heating issues.Educators also point out limits of existing classrooms and learning spaces, which they say are in some cases too small and not suited to modern styles of teaching. The one science lab is shared by seven teachers and music students meet in a former costume shop.
Q: Why tackle this now?
A: The district has been submitting a "statement of interest" in a feasibility study each year for the past decade. In December 2015, it was invited into the Massachusetts School Building Authority's assistance program. It faces a June 1 deadline to submit proof that taxpayers in district towns are willing to shoulder a portion of the study cost. If the vote fails, the district would have to start the process again.
Q: What would the study entail?
A: An architectural, design and engineering team, to be hired by competitive bid, would map out the high school's issues and shape plans to either renovate or replace the school. It would take 12 to 18 months to map options and propose solutions and cost estimates. The study would supply detailed designs and drawings for whatever options are recommended.
Q: How does the cost compare to other feasibility studies in the region?
A: It is the same as the amount appropriated for a study of Mt. Greylock Regional School in Williamstown. Several years ago, the Berkshire Hills Regional School District raised about $750,000 for a study.
Q: What's the impact of the study cost for the average taxpayer?
A: The cost would be spread out over five years and is weighted by town, based on enrollment. The district calculates the impact on the average single-family homeowner's tax bill over the full five years as follows: Becket, $16.04; Cummington, $35.32; Dalton, $107.88; Hinsdale, $57.83; Peru, $67.59; Washington, $18.43; Windsor, $53.04.
Q: What does a "yes" vote mean?
A: That a study would go forward with support from the state. The vote does not authorize school officials to proceed to a renovation or replacement of the school. That would happen only after the study is conducted, if officials deem it necessary.
Q: What does a "no" vote mean?
A: The district would lose its place in line with the Massachusetts School Building Authority, no study would be done and costs of upkeep would remain solely with the district. Officials in the district say that if the process is stopped now, they believe it could be 10 to 20 years before another project could be considered.
Reach staff writer Larry Parnass at 413-496-6214 or @larryparnass.