BART students, staff cheer completion of $4.5 million expansion

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Photo Gallery | BART Charter Public School expansion celebration

Video | BART students celebrate the school's new addition

ADAMS - Trevon Tarrance loves his school — but he always thought it needed more.

Now, thanks to a recent expansion project, it has more. Much more.

Tarrance, a senior at the Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School, and his classmates were excited to see the nearly yearlong project finally completed.

"It's a good community," said Tarrance, of Adams. "The new space has opened up a whole new experience for me, my classmates and the school."

Dozens of community members gathered for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting on Wednesday morning at a new entrance to the building before heading to the new multipurpose room.

"You have deserved this space for so long," Principal April West said, enthusiastically addressing the school's 330 students. "I'm so excited we're at a point where we have a facility to showcase the talents that are dripping from your feet, your fingers, your palms. To give you a space to breathe and stretch during the day."

The $4.5 million project, which kicked off last spring, includes a 10,500-square-foot addition on the existing 33,000-square-foot building's north side and a 5,500-square-foot renovation.

The two-story addition features a lunch room and a half-court gymnasium, which will double as an auditorium. Two fitness rooms and changing rooms are located above the cafeteria.

The school's multipurpose atrium has been referred to as the "cafegymatorium," reflecting its use as a cafeteria, gymnasium and auditorium.

For people like Courtney Munson, a junior from Cheshire involved in dance, the expansion provides much desired performance space.

"It's really nice to have a stage now rather than stand in the atrium on a normal floor," Munson said.

"To be at a point where were going to see seniors in a play at our own school is astounding to me and makes me so happy," said Crystal Hope Garrity, a 2010 graduate of BART.

She recalled being a sophomore in 2008 and, as student council vice president, leading the procession of the first graduating class.

The first nine graduates received diplomas in the atrium, Executive Director Julia Bowen said, and subsequent graduation ceremonies have been held at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Church Street Center. Now, the school will now be able to hold the ceremony on site.

The school administration often lamented scheduling conflicts that arose from trying to hold lunch and gym classes in the atrium and having only a single conference room, Bowen said.

A renovation last summer turned what was nursing and rehabilitation space and a former dentist office into classrooms, working space and teacher offices.

Bowen said that without community support, the project would not have happened. BART isn't eligible for public funds, she said, and project was paid for by donations, grants, school reserves and commercial loans.

Founding trustee Pamela Johnson reflected on the school's growth since its charter was approved by the state in 2003. The school started by first renting classrooms at Mount Greylock Regional High School before moving to the Commercial Street space six months later.

"This isn't the end," she said. "It's just another major milestone of the school."

Contact Ed Damon at 413-770-6979.


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