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AYER — In the aftermath of the historic decision Ayer and Shirley made to regionalize, the two school committees are still in charge of their respective districts for the rest of this school year and the next.

But it won’t be business as usual, with a transitional regional school committee already seated and the permanent body that will replace it to be elected in the spring.

To begin with, the committees have the middle school issue to resolve. The merger plan for next fall that looked solid during the regionalization planning process is now referred to as “possible” and may be less probable, at least for next year. That plan was to close Shirley’s Lura A. White Elementary School, move elementary grades to its middle school and merge sixth through eighth grades in the current Ayer Middle-High School, slated to be a shared Ayer-Shirley facility once the new regional district is operational. The merger is still on the table for the following year, when the Ayer-Shirley district comes on line.

In that light, questions interim Superintendent George Frost put before the Ayer School Committee at its March 24 meeting mirrored those his counterpart Mac Reid was at the same time presenting to the school board in Shirley.

“Tonight, you will continue discussions on the possible merger of the Ayer and Shirley Middle Schools,” stated a joint memo from the superintendents. The two basic questions they were asked to consider are:

* Will the Ayer and Shirley Middle Schools be merged in 2010-11 or in 2011-12

* If the decision is to merge the middle schools, would it be better (to do so) in Shirley or in Ayer for the next three to five years?

The permanent site for the merged middle school is still slated to be the Ayer-Shirley Middle-High School, which it is estimated will take that long to renovate.

To assist in decision-making, three middle school model cost options were presented, along with a list of “opportunities and challenges” specific to each town for each option and an administrative duty roster.

After discussion that night and presumably having had a chance to do their homework, the boards are expected to again consider the merger initiative at the next meeting this week, when they will convene jointly and in tandem with the Transitional Regional School Committee.

By then, Frost said he should have a legal read on whether the two regular committees or the new transitional committee has the final say on the merger question.