As some Massachusetts students get ready to go back to school, a move by the Charlton Board of Selectmen this week to explore de-regionalization has left some people concerned about the future of a high school shared with neighboring Dudley.
The Dudley-Charlton Regional School District is home to Shepherd Hill Regional High School, serving both towns, but located in Dudley.
"This is merely to do a cost-benefit analysis to see what the benefit would be to the residents of Charlton should we go forward," said Charlton Selectwoman Deborah Noble.
De-regionalizing would mean Charlton would have to figure in the significant cost of building a high school, versus remaining in the district, facing its own possible prop 2 ½ override for the schools.
"We want to explore all options based on budgetary concerns," Noble said.
Dudley residents fear this could leave them in the lurch.
"I guess it's a tax issue, and I'm not really interested in paying more taxes," Dudley resident Dave Richer said.
"Fine, let them do their exploration so they can have some answers for the taxpayers," said Dudley resident Susan Mahoney.
Charlton residents say it's not just a financial issue – there are also concerns about long bus rides for Charlton students.
"I think it would be much better for the kids in Charlton to go to their own town for school instead of going all the way to Dudley," said Shepherd Hill graduate and Charlton resident Brittany Burlingame.
"In a year where we're going forward with an override campaign and we felt we didn't need divisiveness, and I think that the selectmen's intentions are good, though," said Dudley-Charlton Schools Superintendent Gregg Desto.
Desto says the district understands funding is tight right now and that Charlton selectmen just don't want to leave any stone unturned – and for now, the district is just focused on the school year ahead of them.
"We don't feel one inch more divided from Charlton than we ever have," said Desto. "We feel like our district is still strong as its ever been."
At this point, all this means is a consultant, already hired by the town to analyze other town expenses, will also analyze the cost of de-regionalizing.