Money to help explore school regionalization

  • The Ralph C. Mahar Regional School.

  • Fisher Hill School in Orange.

  • Dexter Park School in Orange.

Recorder Staff
Published: 3/16/2017 11:37:35 PM

ORANGE — The Orange Elementary, Ralph C. Mahar Regional and Petersham Center school districts will be able to examine regionalization with the help of $53,000 from the state.

They will be among the eight school districts and 38 municipalities in Massachusetts to benefit from more than $850,000 in Community Compact Cabinet grants, the Baker-Polito administration announced recently.

School Superintendent Tari N. Thomas said cost-saving measures are the most attractive aspect of regionalization. She explained the Orange Elementary, Petersham Center and Ralph C. Mahar school committees — the three she oversees — previously authorized her to investigate ways to secure financing to explore regionalization. The Mahar Regional School District will be the grant’s fiscal agent. Thomas said she has received an award letter, grant agreement and contract from the state and, once all necessary documents are signed and returned, the district will be eligible to receive the money.

The school districts are separate, though they share Thomas as a superintendent. They also have a consolidated central office at Ralph C. Mahar Regional School. The Petersham Central School District is a one-school district and the Orange Elementary School District consists of Dexter Park Innovation School and Fisher Hill School.

Thomas said regionalization could cut down on costs through transportation reimbursement and improved efficiency. She explained the Orange Elementary and Petersham Center school districts do not get transportation reimbursement from the state because they are not regionalized.

She said school resources are being stretched because revenues have leveled out but the cost of essentials such as health insurance for employees, contracted salary increases and special education have skyrocketed. Also, school enrollments are declining.

“Needs and costs continue to rise,” she said. “We’re being asked to reinvent and reimagine our schools.”

Thomas said the grant period ends on May 1, 2018.


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