8 Town Regional School District Planning Board
8 Town Regional School District Planning Board (RSDPB) February 2023 update:
Merger Model under Consideration: In April 2022, 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.
CVTE Focus: Enhancing Career Vocational and Technical Education (CVTE) opportunities for South County students continues to be a high priority. In 2022, South County had only two Chapter 74 CVTE programs (automotive and horticulture, both offered at Monument Mountain), serving about 47 students. By comparison, over 500 students are served by Chapter 74 CVTE programs in both North County and Central County.
Fifty percent of our high school graduates do not earn a college degree, and upon graduation, most of those do not earn a living wage. An 8 town merged district could more than triple our current Chapter 74 offerings, with up to 6-8 comprehensive CVTE programs. A CVTE advisory group drawn from our local employers, schools, workforce/economic development groups, and colleges is evaluating over 16 possible CVTE programs, looking at local workforce needs, student interest, available partners, space requirements, and earning capacity. We expect to report that group’s recommendations later this spring (For more information about CVTE generally check out the video here.)
Educational Visioning: With support from the Barr Foundation, we have been working with two skilled facilitators to explore what possibilities community members see for a merged high school. At site visits, interviews, focus groups, and community gatherings, our facilitators have asked:
 What are the strengths of the two districts?
 Where are the gaps?
 What might we be able to do better together? What innovations are possible?
An interactive in-person community session was held at the Sheffield Senior Center on January 21st, and a second session is scheduled at the Great Barrington Senior Center on March 18th. A larger community meeting is targeted for mid-May. Register for the March 18th meeting here.
Continued Work on an 8 Town Regional School District Agreement. Our 8 Town board continues to make solid progress on the governance and other operational provisions of an 8 Town regional agreement. The finance subcommittee continues to analyze various options for assessment methodologies for operating and capital costs, and that subcommittee expects to be in a position to present recommended approaches to the full board in March.
Timeline: The complexity of the assessment methodology work has pushed our targeted date for a board vote back to April/May. This new timing works well with the recommendation of certain Selectboard members that if the RSDPB makes a recommendation to merge, that recommendation be put before the voters at special town meetings this fall (rather than at the annual meetings in May/June) to allow sufficient time for presentation and discussion.
Lucy Prashker, Chair of the 8 Town Regional School District Planning Board
Jake Eberwein, RSDPB Project Manager