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A waste of money to renovate Egremont village school

By Monday, May 6, 2019 Letters 1

To the editor:

The problems facing the Berkshire Hills Regional School District and the Southern Berkshire Regional School District are becoming increasingly widely discussed, and support for some form of consolidation is growing. Enrollment in both districts continues to decline. That makes consolidation not just sensible but probably inevitable.

Of the two districts, the SBRSD is in worse shape. Education experts agree that when total K-12 enrollment in a district drops below about 800, educational quality suffers, and the suffering becomes worse as enrollment decline continues. SBRSD enrollment is already below 700, and the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission predicts enrollment will drop to around 500 in five years, and continue to decline thereafter. Serious action is required now before it’s too late.

And yet a group of Egremonters have hoodwinked the voters (and apparently members of the selectboard) into a state of denial, claiming that, despite the gravity of the school situation, the little one-room schoolhouse in the South Village should be re-opened and that taxpayers should continue to pour money into renovating it. That’s despite mounting problems in and around the building that have kept it closed, including lead contamination, and despite the cost of the renovations being far in excess of what any reasonable person would ever spend.

How did that group lull — some would say mislead — the taxpayers into going along? Over the last five years, the supporters have consistently overestimated the number of children who would attend the school, and have consistently underestimated the cost of the renovations. The cost so far is well over $400,000 and the taxpayers are being asked to appropriate another $90,000 at next week’s town meeting. And that won’t be the end: there are no serious studies showing what the total cost will eventually be.

We can stop this insanity. If you’re an Egremont voter, come to the meeting next Tuesday and vote NO on any more money being wasted on this unrealistic dream based on unrealistic nostalgia.

Richard Allen

North Egremont