To the editor:
There has been much discussion regarding the future of small town schools within Southern Berkshire Regional School District. As you are aware, there has been no program in the Monterey School for the past three school years, and there is no program planned for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year. The student census and distribution make it clear that although many of us have great sentimental attachment and fond memories of our kindergarten, there is no justification for a program in Monterey in the foreseeable future.
The Select Board, in consultation with the Southern Berkshire Regional School District and our Director of Public Works, has been exploring options for maintenance and repairs on the Monterey school building. We have found that in order to bring the building up to reasonable standards for use, it will require extensive and extremely expensive work. The cost and responsibility for any work done would be borne by the town and its taxpayers. Even if the building could be brought to a serviceable level, the decision to re-open then rests with the five-town School Committee. The town would need to somehow demonstrate that there are enough students to populate the school on an ongoing basis to merit the considerable expense of staffing, transportation and equipment. I have been attending school district meetings, and in discussion with various officials about enrollment data, program offerings and feedback from families, this seems impossible.
However, it is not up to the Select Board to determine the fate of the Monterey School; it is up to the residents and voters. We are holding a public discussion Tuesday, March 6th, 7 p.m. at Monterey Town Hall to guide our next steps in determining the future of the school. We will present the facts and realistic prospects. Should the town spend potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars for repairs and maintenance and attempt to re-open the school? Or should we request that the Committee begin the process of notifications and voting to officially close the school according to the specific guidelines in the regional agreement?
Following discussions at recent school committee meetings, the SBRSD committee has also scheduled two public hearings to discuss the proposed closing of the Monterey school: Tuesday, March 20, 2018, 7 p.m. in the Monterey Town Hall; and a follow-up to be held at Mt. Everett Regional School TACPAC auditorium [Sheffield] Wednesday, March 28, 2018 at 6 p.m.
There are important decisions to be made by the school committee, and they merit serious consideration and substantial input from the people of Monterey and families throughout the district. Please make very effort to attend, be informed and express your opinion.
The writer is a member of the Monterey Select Board.