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Berkshire Waldorf High School looks to relocate to Old Town Hall

The Berkshire Waldorf High School looks to move from their current location at 16 Pine St. in Stockbridge to the Old Town Hall within the next two to three years.

Stockbridge — The Berkshire Waldorf High School is looking to renovate and purchase the Old Town Hall for their new location.

According to their website, the school was founded in 2002 and was originally located at the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School on 35 W Plain Rd., which is now the location of the Berkshire Waldorf School.

Teresa O’Brient, left, and Cathy Clark sign a memorandum of understanding between Berkshire Waldorf High School and the First Congregational Church, UCC, of Stockbridge, regarding plans to renovate the Old Town Hall in Stockbridge as a home for the school. O’Brient is Chair of the Board of Trustees of Berkshire Waldorf High School. Clark is Moderator of the First Congregational Church. Photo courtesy of The Berkshire Waldorf High School.

As noted on the high school’s website, while the Berkshire Waldorf School houses the lower grades in the Berkshire-Waldorf program, it is legally and financially separate from the high school program.

During their second year of operation, the high school moved to a location on Main Street in Great Barrington owned by the First Church of Christ, Scientist.

After the church sold the building in Great Barrington in 2013, the school moved to their current location in Stockbridge at 14 Pine St.

According to school Executive Director Stephen Sagarin, the school currently rents the Pine Street building from a commercial landlord, but he would not say from who or how much the school pays in rent.

However, Sagarin did say that the organization recently renewed their lease for three years and that the rental rate went up by 10 percent this year.

“Let’s just say we’re paying market rates, and it is more than we would like to pay,” Sagarin said. “We want to be masters of our building. We currently have 44 students enrolled for this upcoming school year. Our enrollment is down due to the pandemic, but we expect to rebuild our student enrollment rapidly.”

Sagarin said that “we’re a small boutique private school, and our model is based on basically every class fitting into a 14-passenger van.”

“You could say that, from 8:30 a.m. until noon, we’re a traditional academic school,” Sagarin said. “In the afternoon, we’re more of a school without walls.”

The Old Town Hall, which was built in 1839 and is also known as Procter Hall and was built on land owned by The First Congregational Church U.C.C. of Stockbridge.

For almost 184 years, the town has leased the building from the church because it is on the church’s land.

Municipal operations were moved from the Old Town Hall to the former Stockbridge Plain School in 2008, and the building was left vacant for some time. However, Sagarin said that the town has continued to lease the building from the church.

On June 26, the church voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of understanding with the church and the school.

School Executive Director Stephen Sagarin, Teresa O’Brient, and Cathy Clark on the steps of the Old Town Hall, Stockbridge, following the signing of the MOU between the church and the school. Photo courtesy of The Berkshire Waldorf High School.

Sagarin said that the town will need to approve the aspects of any plan, including whether or not the town would give up the lease.

“This has to all be worked out with the people in the church and the people in the town’s government,” Sagarin said.

Sagarin said the organization has started a multiyear fundraising campaign to renovate the building for the school’s use.

“We did have a plan drawn up in 2016 which was the first time we looked at the building,” Sagarin said. “At that time, it was estimated that the renovations would cost somewhere with $3 and $4 million. However, it might be more like $4 to $5 million, but it is a bit of an unknown until we start talking to engineers and architects.”

Sagarin said that the school is more than halfway at their fundraising goal and that they would soon hire an architect for the project.

He said that, while the exterior is in “pretty good shape,” the foundation needs to be repointed and some support for it may need to be installed.

“The windows need to be replaced with energy-efficient windows,” he said. “The bathrooms probably need to be redone, and the downstairs area needs to be converted from town offices into classrooms.”

Sagarin said that the goal for the school is to move into the building within two to three years.

“But we understand that there’s a lot of uncertainty in life and it could take less than two years, and it could take longer than three,” he said. “Our goal is to be able to fund the project entirely through donations and grants so that we don’t have to borrow money. That way, we’ll be able to fund future maintenance of the building.”

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