NORTH ADAMS -- The Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School District stands to increase its membership by two towns -- Cheshire and Lanesborough -- pending a committee vote this week on whether to add Town Meeting warrant articles to each town's ballot this May.
Earlier this year, the district was awarded $23,975 by Gov. Patrick's 2012 Community Innovation Challenge Grant project, aimed at regionalization and efficiency initiatives. According to district Superintendent James Brosnan, the study's results revealed that Lanesborough could save an estimated $30,000 per year, and Cheshire an estimated $90,000 per year, by joining the district. The towns currently pay tuition of about $16,000 per student that opts for vocational school.
"My understanding is the initiative has wide support, but it's also an issue that needs a wide discussion," Brosnan said. "It's an ongoing process, but one key element factoring into our decision is that last week, the Department of Secondary Education endorsed the plan. We've had ideas to expand the district before, but this is the first that's been officially endorsed."
Apart from lowering the assessment for both towns, expanding the district will also increase foundation dollars for the district, help maintain quality of classes and programming offered, and grow the school committee by two members -- one from each town.
Brosnan said the grant money was used to hire consultants from the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools and financial consultants to conduct a study into the fiscal realities of expanding the district, and also to hire legal counsel to review the agreement document for both communities.
"The process is quite extensive," Brosnan said. "But if approved tomorrow evening, word will be sent out to the seven existing communities in the district, as well as to Cheshire and Lanesborough. We're looking to prepare ahead of time for having this process approved by the annual meetings, so that changes can go into effect by fiscal year 2014."
The member towns of the McCann school district are Adams, Clarksburg, Florida, Monroe, Savoy, Williamstown and North Adams. If Lanesborough and Cheshire join McCann's district, town students who choose vocational school will be obligated to attend McCann unless a specific program is not being offered there.
District expansion is part of the McCann district's "Three R's Project," which details plans to revise, retool and ready the district for the 21st century.
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