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Warrant article targets creation of regional school planning committee

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AYER — Ayer, Shirley and Lunenburg school committees have announced plans to form regionalization study committees and prepared warrant articles for their respective town meetings.

Ayer and Shirley will hold their meetings are in March. Lunenburg’s will be in May.

On Dec. 6, the School Committee voted on the wording of a warrant article to create a Regional School District Planning Committee consisting of three members — including one School Committee member — to be appointed by the town moderator, as outlined in Chapter 71, Section 14 of state law.

The article also calls for an $8,000 expense account and an open-ended approach, stating that regionalization options considered by the study committee won’t be limited to a specific town.

But the money could be a problem and may be taken off the table for now.

At the Jan. 17 School Committee meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lore Nielsen suggested removing the $8,000 request. Given the budget crunch the school department is in and the timeline for the new committee’s formation, she said it might be prudent to remove the money from the warrant article.

On Jan. 9, while the School Committee’s Finance Subcommittee met with representatives from Shirley and Lunenburg to talk about regionalization options, the Board of Selectmen apparently questioned the $8,000 in the schools’ warrant article, said Nielsen.

The money would pay for the “technical expertise” to write the proposal, she said, but since costs won’t kick in right away, the funding request can be deferred until next year when it can be brought up again at the annual town meeting.

The board concurred.

The School Committee voted to strike the money request from the warrant article and agreed that the move can be accomplished via an amendment on town meeting floor.