LEE -- With rising costs and declining enrollment, the Lee Public Schools must change the way it operates to save money and still provide a quality education.

"Doing nothing is not an option," said Dayton DeLorme. "We can't keep increasing the size of the [budget]."

DeLorme was echoing the viewpoint of townspeople gathered at Lee Library on Tuesday afternoon for the first of four community-wide meetings to discuss the future of the school system.

The Lee School Committee was to host a second meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Lee Middle and High School, which also will focus on the budget and leadership structure of the district.

Additional meetings in February and March will cover athletics and extracurricular activities and academics.

While the Lee School Committee is exploring options that include collaboration or regionalization with neighboring school districts, none has emerged yet as a clear-cut favorite of taxpayers, parents, students and other stakeholders in the Lee Public Schools.

Collaboration through shared services, administrators and programs seemed to appeal the most to several who spoke at the public input session.

"I would like to see different types of sharing, which would be better for our finances," said Peggy Biron

The focus groups are the next phase of the school district's ongoing self-evaluation that could determine its future financial, academic and governance structure. The committee hopes to complete its study by June, which includes seeking additional public input early next year.

A recent online survey conducted by the committee found about two-thirds of 162 people felt strongly about collaborating or sharing services with one or more neighboring schools district; nearly half favored Lee becoming part of a regional school district.

Overall, 230 people took the survey, but dozens didn't answer all 13 questions, according to the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, which oversaw the survey.