Mattapoisett School Committee addresses school consolidation study

May 17, 2022

The Mattapoisett School Committee raised questions about the timeline of a school consolidation study at their May 16 meeting.

Heather Michaud of the University of Massachusetts Boston Collins Center attended the meeting to present an overview of the analysis, which was applied for by the town of Mattapoisett.

The study will assess relocation and consolidation options for town buildings with a focus on the town hall and school buildings. This study is funded by a grant from the state.

Michaud’s role in the project is to look at data from the school’s perspective, while her colleague, Mike Edwards, will examine data from “the town’s side.” Edwards was unable to be present at the meeting due to schedule conflicts.

When the study was first presented at a Feb. 28 meeting, ORR School Committee Delegate Jim Muse said that “the study is being done to give us information and will not determine how things are done.”

Michaud explained that the Collins Center sends out emails to Massachusetts towns that are eligible for grant funding, and Town Administrator Mike Lorenco responded and applied for the funding.

“School consolidation has been discussed for a long time,” Lorenco explained at the initial presentation in February. “Enrollment is down, and we’re one of the only places in the region that has the separation of grades K-3 and 3-6.”

Michaud presented the committee with further information, including a timeline of data collection, facility visits, and community engagement. The schedule placed these events throughout the summer, allowing the Collins Center to complete a final draft of the study in September.

The School Committee was critical of this timeline.

“School’s almost over, you said the final report would be in September, and you haven’t had much of a site visit yet, so I am concerned about your ability to meet that timeline,” said committee member Carol Clifford. “We have a voice here and I don’t want to see this rushed.”

“Sending out surveys when families and grandparents switch into summer mode would be very ill-advised. I think you need to get that out in September,” said committee member Carly Lavin.

She added that any public forums held would be “a disservice to the public if [they were] held over the summer months, it wouldn’t be a great representation.”

“I agree the timeline is a little aggressive,” Michaud responded. “The Select Board is very interested in having this done. I was concerned, particularly from a public engagement perspective, and I want to make sure that your voices are heard.”

Michaud said that when considering school consolidation, the town is looking at a “long-range plan.” She added that any plan would take “thought, analysis, and dollars.”

As part of the study, Michaud added that they would look into the use of the buildings. “You cannot simply change the use of a building if it is designated and financed as a school.”

The School Committee also expressed frustration when Michaud mentioned that the study had been applied for in January 2021.

“It seems like a lot is going on and my school committee wasn’t given even a whisper,” said Muse. “We were not in the know at all and now this for the rest of the committee is their first shot at something that is really very important and looks like it’s being really rushed.”

No representatives from the town were present for the discussion.