GREAT BARRINGTON — The town is proposing establishing a fund that will not only serve as a way to value vocational careers in Southern Berkshire County, but hopefully retain students in the Berkshire Hills school district as well.
During a budget overview presentation held on Tuesday, Jan. 21, Great Barrington Town Manager Mark Pruhenski outlined a few special articles for fiscal year 2021 in a joint meeting between the town’s Selectboard and Finance Committee. Among them was a request to fund a south county vocational training trust scholarship program with each member community’s contribution calculated by total equalized value to make it fair. Though talks have been in its infancy stage, Pruhenski mentioned that he had already been discussing the fund with representatives from Lee, Lenox, Stockbridge and Sheffield. Terms of this fund will be addressed in a five-town intermunicipal agreement, said Pruhenski. The scholarship proposes to fully fund tuition, textbooks, transportation and student health insurance — for those that may need it — for qualifying residents. Based on equalized value, Great Barrington’s assessed contributed to the fund would by roughly $65,000, he said. For Lee, the assessed contribution will be $40,235; for Lenox, $53,542; for Sheffield, $25,637; and $38,199 for Stockbridge.
The idea behind the fund, he said, would be not to compete with area schools’ vocational programs, but rather to encourage students that are currently attending south county schools to continue with their high school education and wait for an opportunity for tuition to Springfield Technical Community College or Hudson Valley Community College. The member towns will also discuss the possibility of some kind of commitment to continue to work and live and the county after graduation.
The fund will also provide more options to non-traditional students, he added.
“It sends a message that we value our trades,” said Pruhenski. “There is an abundance of respectable jobs in the trades (in the county) right now.”
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