Amherst, Pelham reject regionalized elementary schools

  • Amherst-Pelham Regional High School

Staff Writer
Published: 9/16/2019 10:45:15 PM

AMHERST — Citing insufficient financial and educational benefit to Amherst and Pelham, and lack of support from town officials and residents in both communities, a committee that has studied regionalization of the elementary schools in both towns has issued its final report recommending against any merger efforts.

“Asking school districts to regionalize is a multi-generational decision for communities, and in the end our board decided unanimously that it was not in the best interest of both towns to pursue regionalization at this time,” the Amherst and Pelham Regional School District Planning Board wrote in its 89-page report, delivered to the Amherst Town Council and Pelham Select Board earlier this month.

Board Chairman Peter Demling of Amherst said Monday that without an affirmative vote from the board, and a detailed regional agreement that would be voted on by the public, Amherst and Pelham can’t proceed with an effort to regionalize the two school districts.

While the six-member panel voted unanimously in May against pursuing regionalization of the primary grades, its finished report provides more details about the research done since January 2018 and the conclusion reached by its six members that regionalization would not be helpful to both towns.

Amherst and Pelham already share a middle and high school, along with a superintendent, but not elementary schools.

The report shows that Pelham could have increased financial stability through the partnership, and Amherst could receive more in state reimbursement for transportation, about $228,000 per year.

But loss of autonomy and self-control for Pelham, and questions on whether the financial benefits were enough for Amherst, doomed the idea.

The work was paid for by a $21,500 State Regionalization and Efficiency Grant, with Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools as process consultants, The Abrahams Group as financial consultants and The Logue Group as facilitators for public forums.

If there is future interest in the concept, any town can form a new Regional School District Planning Committee to explore regionalization, Demling said.

The full report can be viewed at amherstma.gov.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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