SHIRLEY -- Ayer Recycling Committee member Melissa MacDonald told the Ayer Shirley Regional School Committee that the Ayer and Shirley Recycling Committees are in the process of applying for a MassDEP School Recycling Assistance grant for the school district.

"I recently attended a DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) grant information session and they offer grants for a whole host of grant recycling opportunities," she said. "One of the big opportunities was for a sustainable materials (recovery) program grant.

"They offer a school grant so that the district can apply for implementation and equipment grants. The planning and implementation grant helps us to hire a program coordinator to help us unify the various elements in the schools, because great work is being done, but things are falling between the cracks and some things aren't being done yet," she said of the schools' recycling efforts.

MacDonald, who was seated with parent Faith Salter, Shirley Recycling Committee Chairman Dawn McCall, and Ayer Recycling Committee Chairman Laurie Sabol, asked the committee and school district superintendent Carl Mock to sign a commitment letter to accompany the grant application.

The letter states that the district supports adopting or expanding its school-wide recycling policy, and tracking the amount of materials recycled and composted to quantify the savings.

MacDonald said that the DEP wants to see that many people in the district are on board with the concept "and support the general notion. That doesn't mean financial support, but just that you are behind us, and that you generally approve of the recycling programs in the schools."

She said that she and her fellow committee members had already gone before the boards of health and school finance director, and have been working with the local fire chiefs. She also cited an online petition of support that had garnered over 50 signatures in just a few days.

The recycling policy she is advocating, she said, would need to be meshed with the current school district policy before it is signed.

The total amount of the grant could be as much as $30,000, which could be spread out over three years. MacDonald said that she sees possibly $18,000 being allocated for a three-year coordinator position.

"One of key goals is to make this sustainable, which is best done by having a network of committed trained parent and student volunteers who can pass it on, and can also look into other grants," she said.

Mock expressed his appreciation for the group's efforts, and said that he knows that there is a lot more potential for the schools' recycling programs, which are not yet integrated region-wide.

"Whether we get the grant or not, I feel that there is a groundswell of interest on our part to bring something together that unifies school recycling and improves it," said Sabol.

Reiterated MacDonald, "We are willing to come in and help with recycling whether we get the grant or not."

The school committee voted unanimously to support the grant application, which is being done online through the Town of Ayer.

According to MacDonald, if the proposal were successful, the funds would not be released before November.