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]."

"We have to embrace change Š it can only be good for us," added Freda Grimm, a parent of a Lee student.

DeLorme and Grimm echoed 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.

Later in the evening, the Lee School Committee held a second meeting at Lee Middle and High School that also focused on the district’s budget and leadership structure.

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 afternoon public input session.

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

Collaboration and shared services has become increasing popular with school districts across the state, noted Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. MASC is assisting Lee with its self-assessment.

The focus groups are the next phase of the school district’s on-going 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, said Koocher who oversaw the survey.

In September, the seven-member school board unanimously agreed to explore the options and benefits of sharing services with an area school system. The collaboration could range from a mutual agreement over a shared administrator or program to regionalization, possibly with Lenox.

Lee’s internal study coincides with the Lenox School Committee’s ongoing examination of options for the Lenox school district, including a possible collaboration with Lee.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com
or (413) 496-6233

What’s next ...

The Lee School Committee will hold two more meetings on the future of Lee Public Schools:

Feb. 25: Athletics and extra curricular activites

March 25: Academics

Both meetings will begin at 7 p.m. at Lee Middle and High School