A host to college classes



By Christopher Marcisz, Berkshire Eagle Staff


Posted: 02/22/2007 01:00:00 AM EST


NORTH ADAMS - Gary Rivers, principal of C.H. McCann Technical School, said there is no doubt about the value of hosting classes from Berkshire Community College. As the college's de facto North County campus, opening its building offers opportunities for students to see past high school.


"For our kids, it's wonderful," he said. "They get to test the college waters. Sometimes they are a little hesitant to make that big step to college, and this lets them get a real feel for what happens after high school.

"And it gives them the confidence that they can do college- level work."


For several years, BCC has offered a few classes in the evening at the North Adams school on Hodges Crossroads. Usually there are 10 to 14 classes each semester, ranging from math and history courses, psychology, early childhood education and criminal justice. Anywhere from 120 to 140 area residents and students usually participate each semester.

McCann Superintendent James Brosnan said the courses stemmed from discussions about improving the school's postsecondary programs. McCann offers postgraduate programs in health, dental and medicine, which includes BCC courses. As BCC was looking for a presence in North County and McCann wanted to make things easier for postsecondary students, they came to an agreement. Brosnan said the courses, which are open to the public, have been good for community relations, as well.


"It exposes McCann and what we do to a variety of people, including parents, young adults," he said. "It's a good community activity for us. And with energy costs going up, it gets pretty expensive. This allows people to save some money while getting their education."


It is also exactly the type of programming that fits with the Berkshire Compact for Higher Education, which aims to create a well-trained workforce in Berkshire County.


"We have to have this kind of outreach to make it convenient and attractive for people," Brosnan said.


Bill Mulholland, BCC's dean of Lifetime Learning and workforce development, said that providing access is what drives the program.

"When you look at Berkshire County, there is only one community college serving a whole area from Connecticut to Vermont," he said. "There are any number of studies that have shown that the farther students are from the flagpole, the less likely they are to come."


He said they hope to include more high school students in the programs in the future, particularly when the new associate's degree program in manufacturing kicks off next year, with courses at McCann and Taconic High School in Pittsfield.

"We want to inspire the students to pursue a college degree," he said.


So far, McCann is the only school in North County to offer BCC courses. Earlier this year, Mount Greylock Regional High School had worked to offer a few courses, though there was no student interest and many were canceled.

The Williamstown school had offered to begin with introduction to criminal justice and philosophy courses, but too few students expressed an interest to meet minimum enrollment. Another course on Microsoft Word had community enrollment, and will go ahead without high school students.

Greylock Superintendent William Travis said there could be a number of reasons why it hasn't taken off, and they are investigating what they are and remain committed to trying again.


"I'm not going to give up as long as (BCC) is willing," he said. "You have to see what works and, if it doesn't, we'll figure out what will."