For the editor:
“School District Committee Members Threaten to Leave Eight Town Planning Board” in your September 27 issue features a perspective from members of the Southern Berkshire Regional School District (SBRSD).
However, as an observant citizen, I attended the same meetings and I have a different impression. I commend President Lucy Prashker, Vice President Peter Taylor, and Senior Consultant Jake Eberwein for their dedicated efforts to coordinate such a large group on a very complex and extremely relevant topic: the future of education in South County. .
Let’s get to the heart of the matter. What is the position of the Eight-City Regional School District Planning Board and who does it represent? According to the statute of the State, each of the municipalities is represented by three members: a) a member of the select council; (b) a general citizen; and c) one from the school committee. After three years of meetings, including the first in July 2019 at the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, a lot has happened and at great expense.
In April 2022, the Eight-City Regional School District Planning Board voted 16 to 6 to move to one of the consolidation proposals, narrowing the choices so that greater depth could be achieved in the next phase. These include the drafting of a regional agreement, a detailed transport plan and other policies currently underway. Four of those who opposed it were members of the school committee.
Putting the brakes on now would hamper the Council’s responsibilities to provide the best education within the financial limits of all participating cities. The consultation work of Eight Cities was the result of 2 and a half years of effort. Funds were provided by the state, the two school boards, eight cities, local businesses and foundations.
The need to consolidate seems clear. I urge all South County residents to revisit the Eight Cities website projections, which are even more dire than previous estimates.
From 2000 to 2022, schooling in our two districts down 35 percent. By 2030 registration will have abandoned a projected 52 percent, at 1,280. View the detailed registration report here.
WHAT IS THE SCHOOLING TODAY IN THE TWO ARRONDISSEMENTS?*
The SBRSD school board could view its own SBRSD statistics on the 8Towns.org website: Of these students, 89 to 95 percent were enrolled in the Berkshire Hills Regional School District in each of the past five years.
Both regional school districts must move forward. As things currently stand, the proposal is:
- Keep all elementary schools open;
- Consolidate the 2 secondary schools (grades 9 to 12) in a new building.
- Co-locate 6-8 Certified Professional and Technical Curriculum Specialists who would be heavily funded by the state to enable students to utilize all options without the stigma or cost to cities of moving to another location .
- The new combined secondary school would be funded 90% by the three towns now in BHRSD and 10% by the five towns now in SBRSD.
For seven years I attended meetings with the BERK 12 organization (BCETF) dealing with the loss of county students. They partly funded the work of the Eight-City Regional School District Planning Council. This is in addition to three years of consolidation meetings. Many South County leaders supported this initiative and its funding.
Isn’t it time to act quickly and thoughtfully in an effort to give ALL of our students the best education we can afford?
For those who have questions or would like to provide feedback to the Eight-Town Regional School District Planning Council, simply go to this page: https://8towns.org/contact