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Gill-Montague Regional Schools

Then there were two, again.

TURNERS FALLS — After discussion of past political reasons for the change, the Gill-Montague Regional School Committee on Tuesday did away with the four-year-old concept of a single Montague Elementary School in two buildings, restoring discrete Hillcrest Elementary School and Sheffield Elementary School.

The two buildings will no longer share a principal or a name, with a principal in each building, but are otherwise unchanged.

As presented and recommended by Superintendent Michael Sullivan, the move was intended to incubate a sense of community in the early-childhood-oriented Hillcrest and upper-elementary Sheffield, with dedicated leadership for each rather than the Sheffield-based principal overseeing both.

The Sheffield and Hillcrest elementary schools became one school, nominally, in 2010, with a single principal and assistant principal in charge of both. The district has since created a second assistant principal position, citing a need for an administrator in each of the still physically separate buildings.

The Hillcrest building will continue to house the preschool, kindergarten and first grade classes, about 160 students, and the Sheffield building will continue to house grades 2 through 5 and their approximately 250 students.

Sullivan wrote in his recommendation that the proposed system would allow the elementary schools to develop their own identities and focus on the needs of their particular age ranges.

The plan would keep the number of administrators at three, with the shared art, music and physical education teachers continuing to walk between the neighboring buildings. The buildings are separated by an athletic field on the block between Griswold Street and Crocker Avenue.

The original plan before the name change in 2010 was to consolidate the two remaining elementary schools into a single building, but this proved financially unrealistic and the decision was made to combine the administration of the two schools and refer to them collectively as the Montague Elementary School.

The School Committee approved Sullivan’s recommendation 6-2.

Member Jennifer Waldron, who was a member of the task force or subcommittee that recommended the 2009 merger, said the unanimous opinion of those she spoke to was that the single-school model wasn’t working.

Member Sandra Brown said fear of the transition from Hillcrest to Sheffield had been part of the reason for combining the schools. She and member Marjorie Levenson voted against the change. Levenson suggested the problem was one of the existing elementary principal.

Member Lesley Cogswell said as a parent of a Sheffield student she has not felt a sense of community in that building, and the idea of a principal in each building appealed to her.

Cogswell said she was a product of the split Hillcrest/Sheffield system and felt she’d turned out all right.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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