Adams Charter School Students Enjoying Expansion

Feb 26, 2015

Credit Jim Levulis / WAMC

A charter school in Adams, Massachusetts recently celebrated a $4.6 million expansion that created a new gym, stage area and lunch room.

Before adding 10,000 square feet to the Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School, gym class was restricted to a multi-purpose room known as the “cafegymitorim.”

“That is a cafeteria, gymnasium and auditorium not designed for any of those functions and not large enough,” said executive director Julia Bowen. “It’s about the size of a quarter basketball court.”

Now the school, known as BART, has a new entrance, separate lunchroom and an area with gym space along with an elevated stage. Lauren Cornell is a junior.

“We now have what is a half-court gym but we will be using it also for putting on performances,” Cornell said. “We have a stage right now and in a few weeks we are putting on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A few weeks ago we had a science fair in here and usually we would have it in different classrooms and the atrium. Now we actually can be all together in one room and it’s a great feeling.”

North Adams-based theater company Main Street Stage is making BART’s stage its home, which Bowen says will help with equipment needs since seating and lighting have been put on hold because of budget restrictions. Two new fitness rooms have also been added for cardio and dance or yoga. Development coordinator Leah Thompson says physical activity was limited during bad or cold weather.

“They have stationary bikes,” Thompson explained. “They’re regular bikes that kids normally take on the bike path, but in the winter they go into stands so that they can still do that.”

More than $1 million was raised to help fund the renovation. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently awarded BART a roughly $15,000 grant to buy equipment for a digital makerspace. School grants coordinator Brain O’Grady says curriculum is being developed around laser cutters and 3-D printers and scanners.

“Real-world application, how are these tools by planners, engineers and so on?” O’Grady said. “The kids will be able to get a sense of that.”

O’Grady says interdisciplinary projects are also possible where social studies students could build models of architectural monuments. BART also hopes to partner with the community to have students assist in projects like the development of Greylock Glen.

BART moved into the converted building about 11 years ago, which used to house a hotel and restaurant. At one point, dental and rehab offices used to do business while the school was open. While construction work continues, executive director Bowen says faculty, parents and the more than 350 students are thrilled about the expansion.

“Being rewarded for that and being celebrated,” Bowen said. “They know this is for them. This isn’t because I want the space. This is because they need the space and I think they feel that.”