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Ayer hopes bid to run community school cinches Devens deal


AYER — Ayer submitted bids to MassDevelopment to educate Devens students, in response to a request for proposals (RFP). Shirley and Harvard school districts also responded, said interim Superintendent of Schools George Frost.

Frost reported on the status of the bid at the April 2 School Committee meeting.

Currently, Shirley has the contract for elementary school students. High school students may go to The Bromfield School in Harvard under a separate contract with that district.

An option for grades five through eight spans the two districts. Middle school students can attend Harvard or Shirley, Frost said.

With a multi-year high school contract with Harvard in hand and Shirley contract due to expire in August 2009, MassDevelopment’s RFP called for bids to educate K-5 and 6-8 students.

Shirley bid for the first tier, while Harvard and Ayer bid for both, Frost said.

Although the proposals are all “unique,” he said, Ayer’s is the only one that includes a plan to establish and operate a community elementary school at Devens.

The set-up could be based on the essential school model, similar to that of the Parker charter school, Frost said.

Since the Devens Education Advisory Committee (DEAC) has indicated that’s a priority and Devens parents have said they want an elementary school on their own turf, Ayer’s willingness and ability to provide one could give Ayer an edge in this competition.

“We tried to speak to Devens’ need to have a community school” with creative class structures, he said.

An Ayer/Devens deal could offer an option for Ayer parents to send their kids to the new community school, too, he said. He described that suggestion as a “win/win” because it could balance class sizes. The contract would be a financial windfall, doubling what the state pays per student under the School Choice program, plus perks.

As to where Ayer’s offer stands in the running, Frost said he can’t gauge it from meetings he’s had with MassDevelopment officials so far.

“I don’t know … they’re pleasant, they smile a lot. The proof will be in the decision,” he said.

DEAC is expected to make its recommendation in May.