Student Kailey Sultaire noted that the technology, the creation of pods and collaborative learning spaces, and a green energy efficient building has not gone unnoticed from the students. She thanked the officials for having trust in the students.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Taconic senior Alexandria Carmon went to numerous vocational competitions against schools throughout the state.
And it made her jealous.
The health technologies program at Taconic had great teachers. It was a great program. But the other schools had better technology. They had a better environment to practice their trades. And Taconic High School, well, was literally falling down on the student's heads at times.
But that's not the case anymore.
On Friday, students, faculty, and city and state officials dedicated and cut the ribbon on the new $120.8 million Taconic High School, providing better technology and environment for students like Carmon need for years to come.
"My classmates and I have had the opportunity to meet, interact with, and compete against vocational students from across the state. And I was always very jealous of those schools because they had so much more than we did. I truly thank you guys for giving us the tools they had," Carmon said.
"We always had amazing, highly skilled teachers in every shop at THS. We now have the advanced technology and equipment to prepare us for those competitions. The resources we have been blessed with will allow us to achieve so much more."
The project has been more than a decade in the making, starting in 2005 when an accreditation report cited the school as having deficiencies. City officials reactivated the School Building Needs Commission to look at all of the buildings and, eventually, the focus was placed on building a new Taconic.
"The decision was to invest in the greatest number of students and make the biggest impact," said state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, who was just a new city councilor at the time.
Over the following 10 years the group meeting for hours and hours and petitioned the Massachusetts School Building Authority for funding. The faces in city government changed quite a bit during that time, but the project remained on the front burner.
In 2015, the city received notification that the MSBA was willing to pay up to $74 million - and is ultimately paying about $72 million because the project is trending under budget - to help build the school and the City Council followed up with unanimously voting in favor of paying the rest. The state is paying 80 percent of the eligible costs with the city picking up the rest.
And then it was construction. In 2016, officials broke ground on the building and workers took what was sports fields and a rock ledge and built a 246,520 square feet building to accommodate 920 students.
"It is the realization of 10 plus years of work over three mayoral administrations. We certainly owe a debt of gratitude to the people who got us here today. But this school is also a symbol, a symbol of Pittsfield's faith in the young people," School Committee Chairwoman Katherine Yon said.
For the last two years under the direction of the owner's project manager Skanska USA, the architects Drummey Rosane Anderson, Inc., and Gilbane Construction as the construction manager, hundreds of contractors were on site just about every day bringing the vision to life.
"They weren't just a project manager, an architect, or construction manager for the high school. They're people who have given their hearts and souls to this project and they embraced our community, they gave back to our community, and, most importantly, they ingrained themselves with the staff and students at Taconic High School and continue to do so," said School Building Needs Commission Co-chair Kathleen Amuso, who has been part of the project since the very first day.
In September the first class walked through the doors. But, they walked into much more than a building. They walked into what officials say is an investment in the city's future.
The architects, owner's project manager, and construction management team with MSBA Deputy Executive Director Jack McCarthy.
"This state of the art school building is a symbol of a city that is contentually building its future. Taconic High School is the place where our teachers have access to cutting-edge educational resources to help prepare the next generation for citizenship, for exploration, and for prosperity," Mayor Linda Tyer said.
Superintendent Jason McCandless said the building the students learn in sends a clear message. He said school buildings make an impact on the way the students see themselves in the world.
As the new Taconic opened up, he constantly heard the students saying, "I can't believe they did this for us."
"Together we've built a school that tells our young people to grow and think deeply and independently, to be confident and to believe in themselves as much as this community clearly believes in them. The city of Pittsfield and the commonwealth of Massachusetts today celebrates putting our money where our mouth is," McCandless said.
State Sen. Adam Hinds used to work with the middle and high school population, particularly with at-risk youth. His experience with that age bracket is that it is vitally important to show them that the communities cares.
"I can't overstate the value of demonstrating at this moment, when somebody is walking into junior high and high school, saying you matter. It is a tough moment at that age, you are pushing away from your parents, you are uncertain about yourself at the moment, and to say I matter, this community cares about me, I have a future that I want. That's what this school says. You get that feeling immediately when you walk in here," Hinds said.
The city and the state put in millions of dollars and revamped its programming at the school for the students. And now Yon believes the students have an obligation to the city. She said while it is a beautiful building, what makes it special is the what happens inside of it every day.
"We put our faith in you, so now you must deliver. We want you to be inspired by this beautiful building with unique learning spaces. We want you to set your goals high," Yon said, addressing the students.
"Make this building come alive with the hopes, the dreams, and the accomplishments of you, the student body, the backbone, the heart, and the soul of Taconic High School."
And Carmon said that is exactly what the current and future Taconic Braves will do.
"I assure you, we will use our skills to better this community," Carmon said.
State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg said those learned skills at the new Taconic is what is going to lead to greater prosperity not just for the students but for the entire state.
"Our kids here deserve this school," Goldberg said. "In Massachusetts, our brains are our resource, our capability. The arts, STEM, everything that we have that contributes to our economy comes from learning. That is the key path to success, to have financial stability, to have opportunity in this state."
The event also featured remarks from the student representative on the School Building Needs Commission Kailey Sultaire, Deputy Chief Executive Director from the MSBA Jack McCarthy, and a welcome from Principal Matthew Bishop.
The Taconic Chorus kicked off the event with the Star Spangled Banner and a rendition of Queen's Crazy Little Thing Called Love.
Following the ceremony, the crowd, featuring a number of invited guests, went outside to cut the ribbon on the new school. But unlike most ribbon cuttings where the elected officials crowd around, a group of 10 students, representing the students, did the honors. After all, it wasn't built for the elected officials, it was built for the students.
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