Gill-Montague, Pioneer districts continue to examine feasibility of merger

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 07-10-2023 7:55 PM

ERVING — Roughly 20 interested citizens attended Thursday’s Erving School Committee meeting to learn more about the fiscal and educational feasibility of merging the Gill-Montague and Pioneer Valley regional school districts.

Alan Genovese and Greg Snedeker, the chair and vice chair of the Six Town Regionalization Planning Board, respectively, delivered a presentation at Erving Elementary School to share information gleaned from their board’s research as well as community forums and a survey that was conducted in November and December of 2021.

Erving contracts with the Gill-Montague Regional School District to send its older students to Turners Falls High School and Great Falls Middle School. A merger would not affect Erving Elementary School itself.

Genovese explained the board is comprised of administrators, educators, parents and people with finance backgrounds in Montague, Bernardston, Gill, Leyden, Northfield and Warwick. He said the idea of a merger was proposed when both regional school districts saw declining enrollment and the elimination of programs as cost-saving measures. He mentioned some Pioneer students visited Gill-Montague schools, and vice-versa, to learn more about what the other institution could offer.

“Out of that came some amazing information,” Genovese said, comparing it to the layers of an onion.

Genovese mentioned a merger would result in an annual savings of $275,000, primarily in the central office because there would not be two superintendents’ offices.

Some of the specific educational opportunities that might be possible through a merger include a more flexible daily class schedule and expanded course offerings, including Advanced Placement classes, visual and performing arts, health education, wellness, life coaching and mindfulness.

After the presentation, Katie Lavin, a mother of two preschoolers, said she was thrilled to hear business education classes might return to the curriculum, as those courses inspired her to major in marketing in college.

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“So hear, hear,” she said to applause.

According to the presentation, a merger would increase flexibility in scheduling because having more students would allow for second and third sections of required courses, which in turn would create opportunity to schedule more classes. Flexibility in a schedule allows the school administration to implement a more robust program of studies. The research also indicates school-to-career programs would benefit, in addition to internships and the dual-enrollment program with Greenfield Community College.

A merger would also reportedly enhance and expand sports programs and allow for dedicated middle school athletics teams.

Snedeker said the Regionalization Planning Board looked for a comparable community to examine and found Clinton, which he said is a similar size to what Gill-Montague and Pioneer would be if the regional school districts combined. He told attendees that the school buildings appear to be in good structural shape and this exploration has nothing to do with finding a more suitable home for students. He also said the looming discussion has nothing to due with the quality of instruction in either regional school district.

The full presentation is available on the Regionalization Planning Board’s website at bit.ly/44gpKgo.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or
413-930-4120.

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