State grants will help local school districts study cooperation

For the Recorder
Friday, January 12, 2018

Money for examining how consolidation and increased cooperation can take place between Turners Falls High, Pioneer Valley Regional and Franklin County Technical schools will come from a portion of $2 million in Community Compact Cabinet state grants announced by the Baker-Polito Administration Friday.

Eight school districts and 92 communities are among those that will benefit from the state’s Efficiency and Regionalization program, which began in 2016 with an aim to give money to cities and towns interested in providing services in more cost-effective ways.

For the Franklin County schools, $109,998 will go toward examining what Gill-Montague Schools Superintendent Michael Sullivan said are two possible tracks for the future of the three school districts.

The first track would examine a range of levels of collaboration between Turners Falls High and the Tech School. “It could go so far as creating a comprehensive high school,” Sullivan said.

The second track would study Turners Falls and Pioneer to determine if long term the districts might combine, but more immediately they could share administrators or special education programs.

Hiring a consultant, providing support for facilitating meetings and paying for bus trips for students interested in taking classes at both Turners Falls High and Tech, which are just 1½ miles apart, will be covered by the grant.

The state money supplements an earlier grant from the Boston-based Barr Foundation that is already helping Turners Falls High and its project partners to prepare students in a redesigned high school experience by 2019.

Another $21,500 will go toward studying possible regionalization of the Amherst and Pelham elementary schools.

Amherst-Pelham Regional School Superintendent Michael Morris said he appreciates that the state acted on the application for the regionalization effort that would put the four elementary schools, three in Amherst and one in Pelham, into a single district.

Also getting $150,000 is the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District, which includes 11 communities, mostly in Franklin and Hampshire counties, including Bernardston, Conway, Deerfield, Hadley, Montague, Northampton, Shelburne, Southampton and South Hadley.

The aim of the district is to combat the threat from mosquito-borne illnesses by providing access to the mosquito-testing laboratory in Jamaica Plain, insect-killing adulticide spray, egg-killing larvicides, educational resources, and a coordinated means of communicating and addressing risk.

Last October, the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board approved a petition to create this regional entity.

Other projects included $22,109 to support regional treasury and collections for 13 communities, including Conway, Hawley and Heath.