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Editorial: Branching out at Mohawk

A recent Recorder story about Mohawk Trail Regional School branching out beyond its district borders should be providing much fodder for discussion inside the district.

On the face of things, it shows that Mohawk Superintendent Michael Buoniconti is looking toward the future in a number of ways. As reported, he’s begun talks with Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura about a collaboration, particularly in performing arts.

At the same time, the superintendent is seeking to bolster a plan he had a few years ago whereby Mohawk would open its doors to tuition-paying students from elsewhere around the country and the international community. The students that Buoniconti is now targeting include ones from China. As explained by Mohawk Principal Lynn Dole, the idea would be to offer summer workshops that would draw students to Mohawk for a couple of days as well as trying to attract students for the full school year.

All of these ideas are intriguing and each has merits.

Greater collaboration with GCC is a way to create a bridge of sorts between high school and college. As Pura said, “We have students here from all the area highs schools through dual enrollment. We’re anxious to build collaborations that increase opportunities for our high school students. We want to work with other schools, to enhance what they have to offer ...”

As for bringing students from China or other countries, as Dole says, it is one way to expose local students to the world outside of western Mass. “I believe very strongly in the power of international opportunities,” she said.

It’s those very opportunities that open the doors for students when it comes to education, creating one’s future path or better understanding the world we live in.

Obviously there has to be much more talk inside and outside the district about logistics and commitments.

We see, too, a need for another kind of discussion, one that takes into account at least part of the reason that Buoniconti and others are thinking outside the box — local enrollment and costs.

We don’t think there is anyone in the district who isn’t aware that enrollment in the district has been declining. Beginning in 1999, Mohawk has seen its overall school population drop from almost 2,000 students to just over 1,100. That has prompted talks of consolidating the district’s elementary schools and other measures.

If we look at these ideas through that lens, we see that a collaboration with GCC may prove to have some cost-saving benefits for Mohawk while bringing in foreign students provides the school with another source of cash. This may be not be an issue among residents using the argument that Mohawk and other public school districts have to find ways to adapt to changes in the public education landscape.

But it all should be openly and honestly discussed so that there’s no mistaking what the district is getting into.

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