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South Egremont school ‘costly,’ ‘tiny,’ ugly’

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By Friday, Nov 17, 2017 Letters 7

To the Editor:

At a time of decreasing enrollments and increasing costs in South County’s school districts, it is irrational to devote taxpayer money to keeping open costly and ineffective one-room schoolhouses. The one in South Egremont is no exception, and describing it as an important historical landmark doesn’t change that conclusion.

The South Egremont Village School. Photo: Terry Cowgill

That the South Egremont school will eventually close is as sure as the sun coming up tomorrow. Taxpayers can’t afford, and shouldn’t be asked to pay, the annual operating cost of $175,000 to serve 20 or so students, most of whom don’t even live in the school district.

The building, whether it is a school or something else, is tiny, ugly and in need of extensive repairs. The latest estimate for stabilizing the foundation and complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act has climbed to $431,000, and that doesn’t include all the necessary work. The building’s supporters have masked those costs by consistently underestimating them and pleading for “just a little bit more” from taxpayers.

It’s time to stop the bleeding. While $346,500 in grants and taxpayer money has been allocated for the project, less than $25,000 has actually been spent. Let’s not throw good money after bad. Nostalgia shouldn’t drive government decisions.

Richard Allen


7 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Susan P. Bachelder says:

    I remind the Edge readers that Mr. Allen is the man who worked to derail CPA in Egremont. The CPA was a funding mechanism that could be used for the school, the Church, for French Park, Prospect Lake, and other public spaces or places of historic value that we now must get nickel and dimed by Mr. Allen whenever we go to raise funds to attend to the common wealth of our community.

    There is another old and ugly building that was nearly torn down that Mr. Allen and his cohorts might reflect upon. The 1753 house greets you as you enter Williamstown. It speaks volumes about the roots of this community and its concern to maintain tangible reminders of its history. Egremont’s school is 130 years younger, a bit bigger, with very large windows for the 1880’s. Sunlight still floods the rooms, but by today’s measure I guess you could say both the 1753 House and the Egremont School are small and ugly. Certainly neither is architecturally significant.

    However their presence is significant. They cause us to reflect on some pretty good ideas about who we are and what we like to remember about ourselves when we see them. They are assets we share in common. How we care for them today will create our future. Do we see them as small and ugly? Or can they reflect some greater values we still share. As money dominates our society at the expense of all else, is there room for the one room school house? Mr. Allen thinks not. I disagree.

    Susan Bachelder

  2. Nancy DuVall says:

    That little school in the midst of our village is NOT ugly. It may be inefficient, but it is definitely NOT ugly.

  3. Cynthia Boice Stoltz says:

    Having gone to that schoolhouse way, way back when (3rd and 4th grades I believe) after attending the North Egremont school on my way to Mt. Everett, I have been chuckling over all these efforts to save it. Now that my parents are gone, I rarely come back, so not sure why all the sentiment related to this school, nor do I know what it is currently being used for. I didn’t ever have any particular affection for that school and do not recall that any of my friends or our parents did either (this would have been back in the mid 1950’s, I guess) and wonder how many of the people fighting to save it actually went there. I don’t recall anything particularly special about it; in fact, it was where I (and most of the other 3rd graders) learned that math and I would never be friends. Turned out that it was the teacher and not the students, but the seeds were sown. I suppose as one room schoolhouses go, it is attractive–at least from the outside, but so are a lot of other places. Maybe there is a way to donate it to an organization that would keep it there, keep it looking the same on the outside and let them maintain it, bring it up to code. Put a plaque on the outside that states what it was and when it was used as a schoolhouse and move on. Just sayin…….

  4. Lucinda Fenn Vermeulen says:

    As a business owner and resident in Egremont I take offense to Mr. Allen’s brazen disregard for our history. Nostalgia is not a dirty word. We as a town will remain viable and become more vital if Historic buildings are preserved. Whether or not it continues as a school is not the issue at hand. Making this building safe and usable is an urgent priorty. Another deteriorating building in the center of town cannot be an option and all we need is a small amount of $$$$ to make that happen. But we need to act now. Join us for a fundraiser December 1 to insure the future of this Egremont landmark and preserve someting to be proud of.

  5. clarke olsen says:

    Looking back on the first grade in that one room school house, I am afraid it was my best educational experience. The attention that we got in that venue was unique, and the digital revolution can now expand the capabilities of a small, local school. Keeping the physical building of reminds us of alternatives to centralization.

  6. Peter Greer says:

    Mr Allen loses any credibility by choosing to characterize the one room, schoolhouse as “ineffective” . In addition there is a very strong and growing movement towards local economy and echoing the points made by Clarke Olsen we should actually have more alternatives like the old schoolhouse .The current system needs a reboot(look at the recent reading scores) and decentralized smaller footprint tech enabled schools can be an integral part of the movement.

  7. Stephen L. Cohen says:

    Considering the recent article on the poor scores on the MCAS in the districts, particularly the scores for third grade reading, it seems the new studies on the efficacy of smaller schools is particularly appropriate for our children. Small schools educate students better, in more educationally nourishing surroundings. Our district is in big trouble financially because of our rapidly dropping enrollment, and is not providing the education we sorely want and need for our kids. We must rethink our model for education and it seems smaller schools should be a big part of any new plan.

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