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AYER, SHIRLEY

School officials talk after 3-way merge fails

Seek options after 3-way district fails

By Jennifer Fenn Lefferts
Globe Correspondent / September 27, 2009

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Ayer and Shirley school officials are looking at forming a combined district after plans for a three-town region with Lunenburg fell through.

After two years, the three towns aborted their proposal when the state didn’t come through with money to cover the administrative costs of creating a new district.

“We can’t do it without the transitional money and the state is in financial dire straits,’’ said Shirley resident Robert Prescott, a member of the Ayer-Lunenburg-Shirley Regionalization Board.

The towns were in the final stages of planning with only presentations to the Boards of Selectmen and Town Meeting votes remaining before the proposal was submitted to the state.

The regional planning committee had supported the proposal because they felt it would benefit all the towns educationally and financially and help all three communities solve problems associated with deteriorating facilities.

But the towns needed $1.8 million to merge the three operations and create a new administration. The regionalization board was told earlier this month that the state couldn’t commit the funds. The committee then voted against moving forward.

J.C. Considine, a spokesman for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the funding request was not included in the final version of the state budget.

“It’s too early to know whether funds might become available [next year] to support regional efforts,’’ Considine said. “But the department will continue to work with . . . towns that are interested in exploring regionalization.’’

Ayer and Shirley officials said it makes sense to join together for several reasons. Not only do the towns border each other and share activities such as youth sports, but the merger would solve school building needs.

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at jflefferts@yahoo.com.