TOWNSEND -- The North Middlesex Regional School Committee discussed forming a new committee Monday to look into a back-up plan for how to maintain the schools if a proposed new high school passes.
The proposal for the school is set to go before Ashby, Pepperell and Townsend Special Town Meetings in March, where voters will either approve or deny the $89.5 million construction project, and two add-ons, one of which is a maintenance facility.
The building would house and provide service space for the vehicles that the district uses to maintain all its schools.
To go forward, the maintenance facility would need to be approved by all three member towns, and would be contingent on other cost savings being found in the budget once the project goes out to bid.
If the high-school project passes but the maintenance facility fails, or if the facility passes but there is no money left in the budget to fund it, the school will have no place to house and do repair work on all of the maintenance vehicles for the district.
Superintendent Joan Landers recommended the formation of the committee to look into other options of how to maintain the district's schools.
"In a proactive effort to look at other options, I'm requesting a committee be formed to look at other alternatives and ways to address this issue in a proactive manner," Landers said.
The committee would ideally include representatives from the School Committee and all three member towns, Landers said.
"We're a regional school district. We should talk to the towns and look at different solutions and resolutions," she said.
School Committee Chairwoman Susan Robbins said if the maintenance facility doesn't pass, the committee needs to be prepared with other options.
"The hope is to be able to care for the equipment that we use to service the district, but also to care for the buildings in the district. If we're not able to get the funding for a maintenance facility, we need to talk about how we are going to maintain our buildings and a potential long-term solution, whether it be a capital or operational solution," Robbins said.
Those interested in serving on the committee were advised to contact the superintendent's office.
The School Committee also voted to award a three-year bus service contract to Dee Bus Service in Shirley, which transports the district's students in Pepperell.
Dee Bus Service took over Pepperell service in December after former provider Atlantic Express filed for bankruptcy. The district had used a separate bus company for students in Ashby and Townsend.
The new contract begins June 30 and will serve all three towns.
Landers said the contract is a cost increase from the previous contract, but said the school's bus costs have been level for the last five years.
The new cost will stay level for the three years of the contract, after which time the district has the option of choosing to extend the contract for a third or fourth year.
Landers also thanked Dee Bus Service for stepping in when the school system needed to find a replacement bus company quickly.
"I'd like to publicly thank Dee Bus Service. They stepped forward and it didn't cost us anything extra, they were able to hire all of our present drivers, and even rent our present location, and they haven't missed a beat," Landers said.
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