Public outreach on potential Pioneer, Gill-Montague merger aimed for fall

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School in Northfield. Staff File Photo

  • Turners Falls High School and Great Falls Middle School. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/7/2021 3:07:14 PM

A potential merger of the Gill-Montague Regional School District and the Pioneer Valley Regional School District is still being investigated, though plans for public outreach last year were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee investigating the merger now expects to hold public outreach sessions this fall.

The Six Town Regionalization Planning Board, which has members from all six towns in the two school districts, has been working since the fall of 2019. The exploratory committee has previously explained that the vision for the new district would be to reorganize Pioneer Valley Regional School and Turners Falls High School, so that one would be a middle school and the other a high school. All the currently open elementary schools would remain essentially unchanged.

The primary advantage of this new school district is that it would have the capacity to offer a greater diversity of academic programs than either one of the two current districts can, said Alan Genovese, chair of the Six Town Regionalization Planning Board.

The trade-off, the Warwick resident acknowledged, is that bus rides to and from school may be longer.

“It looks promising that the kids would be huge benefactors of more educational programs — albeit, it would be a longer bus ride for Gill-Montague kids going to Pioneer, and Pioneer kids going to Gill-Montague,” Genovese said.

The project also addresses long-term fears regarding the cost of education and declining enrollment in local public schools, which have made it increasingly difficult for towns to fund education programs that are modern and competitive, Genovese said.

Research by the exploratory committee has focused on the business structure of the new district, the administration of it and potential educational models. This spring, the committee will conduct its third phase of research since its start in 2019.

The public outreach sessions that will hopefully be held this fall will reflect the findings of that research, Genovese said. By that point, he said, the Six Town Regionalization Planning Board should be able to give a basic picture of how a new district would work.

However, he noted that the committee itself does not have a clear opinion yet on the question of whether the merger is advisable. That will come later, once all research is complete. The committee’s work will finish when it makes a recommendation to the six towns on whether to pursue forming a new district.

“This is all about us gathering information, whatever that may be, and keeping an open mind,” Genovese said. “We’re not making the decision. The towns are making the decision. We’re just going to be making a recommendation.”

Reach Max Marcus at
mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.


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