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Regionalization talks continue in Shutesbury

— Town officials voted earlier this month not to be part of plans to regionalize the elementary schools of Leverett, Amherst and Pelham, but talks continue as the Shutesbury Regional School District Planning Committee (RSDPC) met this week to discuss how the town could fit into the regionalization plans.

Shutesbury’s school district planning committee is part of the larger Regional School District Planning Board, a 12-member panel which includes members from Leverett, Shutesbury, Amherst and Pelham. On March 9, the board voted to pursue plans for a three-town region of Leverett, Amherst and Pelham — without Shutesbury. All four towns already combine their students in grades 7 through 12.

Although Shutesbury committee members voted 2-1 not to regionalize with the other towns, citing opposition expressed by townspeople, they chose to remain on the board and voted unanimously in favor of pursuing the three-town regional proposal. The towns involved will finalize the proposal by June 30 and present it to their respective Town Meetings in the fall which must approve the plan. It then must get the OK from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education by December.

Shutesbury representatives said they bowed out to avoid having their Town Meeting block the proposal.

“What happened when this issue came up in the ’90s, Shutesbury voted against the regionalization proposal and the entire thing was shot down,” said Shutesbury RSDPC member Michael DeChiara.

The Shutesbury committee can later vote to become a part of the elementary school region after the three-town proposal is created and approved.

The Shutesbury committee, which has already held public forums on the issue, has decided to hold three short working sessions in May to discuss specifics of the regionalization proposal with townspeople. The meetings have been tentatively scheduled for May 7, 21 and 28.

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