Vol. III No. 23 12/1/2022
Regional School District Planning Board (RSDPB)
by Lucy Prashker
Here is our most recent update on the work of the 8 Town RSDP:
Merger Model under Consideration: In April, the 8 Town Board voted (16 to 6) to continue to develop the merger model recommended by our research team — merging the Berkshire Hills Regional School District and the Southern Berkshire Regional School District into a single preK-12 district, maintaining the existing elementary and middle schools as they are, but creating a new merged 9-12 high school to be built on the Great Barrington campus.
Enrollment trends: The enrollment trends: October enrollment numbers show a decline at Mt. Everett High School from the year before, dropping from 180 to 165 students across grades 9-12 (8%). At Monument Mountain, the one-year enrollment decline in the high school was 5.3%, dropping from 511 students to 484.
Work Planned for the Early Winter 2022: Our three areas of primary focus now are: educational visioning, the drafting of an 8 Town regional school district agreement, and a more in-depth transportation study.
Our educational visioning will involve faculty/staff, students, community members, employers, and parents. The goal is to consider options for how a combined 8-town district would deliver educational programming, create opportunities for the two districts to learn more about each other; and build a shared sense of ownership.
Our plan is to begin with two groups: one for the high school and a second focused on the expanded Career Vocational Technical Education and Career Pathways (CVTE) programs that a merged district could offer.
Funding the Work: Our earlier state funding had to be expended by June 30, 2022. No funds were earmarked in the most recent budget cycle specifically for regionalization and so we have sought other funding sources. We have received a $50,000 grant for the educational visioning work from the Barr Foundation, and, with additional support from BERK12, we now have sufficient funds to continue our work through 2022. In late August, we had asked each of our 8 towns and 2 school districts to authorize up to $15,000 to fund our work through June 2023 to the extent needed. As of this update, the Towns of Sheffield, Alford, and West Stockbridge have provided that authorization, and the remaining towns have either placed the request on their respective special town meeting warrants or tabled the request.
Timeline: We are targeting January/February for a board vote on a recommendation to the Selectboards of the 8 Towns, and, if the vote is to recommend merger, the question will be put to the voters at the annual meetings in May/June 2023.
Editor's Note: Lucy Prashker is the Chair of the Regional School District Planning Board
Photo: Jay Rhind