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Firm Chosen for Pittsfield Schools Restructuring Study
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
02:31PM / Friday, March 10, 2023
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The second time is the charm. A bid has been accepted for the Pittsfield Public Schools restructuring study after the district re-issued a request for quotes.

"As you know, we received no proposals the first time we broadcasted a request for quotes, an RFQ, for the Pittsfield Public Schools' master plan," Superintendent Joseph Curtis said to School Building Needs Commission on Tuesday.

 "We then reposted the RFQ and received one proposal."

In January, a small group of school and city representatives reviewed the proposal and decided that the requirements were met. The group then asked the firm clarifying questions about its take on community outreach and received a promising response.

Curtis said the awardee strongly stated the necessity for several community input sessions as part of the process, which is an essential component for district leaders and planners.

A contract will be formalized next week and the firm will be named.  

Curtis reviewed the study's components which range from gathering information, analyzing, and documenting to presentation.

The RFQ has multiple phases: to establish goals and a project schedule; student enrollment projections and student facilities to serve based on current enrollment; a comprehensive facility assessment of the city's four unrenovated schools; developing educational programming in master plan options; preparing a draft and final reports; and community presentation.

The process is aimed to be year-long and will ultimately be voted on by the City Council. The city would like it to be very public and generate a good amount of feedback.

Possible recommendations that could come out of the study are redistricting, downsizing brick-and-mortar sites, and restructuring grade spans.

"There will be several things that will be part of this comprehensive study that the school committee will be interacting with, making decisions, obviously soliciting public debate and interaction and making those decisions that will help us facilitate what we will actually put forth as a statement of interest in roughly April 2024," Curtis explained.

The commission reconvened in September after not meeting for several years. The city has $200,000 to do a restructuring study of the school district that addresses its physical and general structure.

There had reportedly been a lot of discussion about the district's community schools Morningside and Conte, and Pittsfield High School.

The district has a total of 15 sites including eight elementary schools, two middle schools, and two high schools and enrollment has dropped over the years.

Assistant Superintendent for College and Career Readiness Tammy Gage gave an overview of the School Committee's January vote to start Taconic High School's transition into all vocational by only accepting Career Technical Education (CTE) students beginning in the fall.

All new non-CTE students will attend Pittsfield High School and Taconic's remaining non-CTE students in Grades 10-12 will graduate as usual. The class of 2027 will be the first all-technical class to graduate.

This has been on the horizon since the new, $120 million facility debuted in 2018. With high interest in Taconic's vocational programs and CTE admissions outnumbering the latter, administrators see this as a way to best serve students.  

With the transition, school leaders and the community have emphasized the needs of Pittsfield High School.

Curtis said that the study will provide options to consider about the school's physical plant and inform conversations.

"As you can imagine in our community outreach events we were approached by families asking about Pittsfield High," he said.

"The School Committee has had several public discussions during meetings about the physical plant needs of Pittsfield High School and how those will be addressed, either through the statement of interest or a capital plan through the city, so all of that will be under debate."

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