On Saturday, November 17, 2012 the voters of Ayer and Shirley will participate in a Special Election from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. regarding the approval and funding of the proposed Ayer-Shirley Regional High School Renovation Project.

The Ayer-Shirley Regional School District (ASRSD) has been working for over a year on the $56.5 million dollar proposed renovation to the 1964 high school facility. The MSBA has approved a reimbursement rate of 70.25 percent for this project which equals a maximum facilities grant of $37,174,694. he remaining cost of approximately $19.36 million must be funded by Ayer and Shirley. Each year, each town will pay an assessment to the region for the cost of the project. The assessment is based on the average of both the foundation enrollment and the actual enrollment of students from each town. Today the breakdown is Ayer -- 60 percent and Shirley -- 40 percent. With the recent change to the regional agreement Ayer will fund an additional percentage until the regional middle school debt is paid in full

The purpose of the proposed project is to revitalize the aging high-school facility, the limitations of which are characterized by the school's accrediting agency (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) as "a hindrance to student learning opportunities." The plan, proposed by the School Building Committee and endorsed by the Regional School Committee, is to create a modern educational facility that will serve the needs of Ayer and Shirley's high-school students for the next 30-50 years and, in doing so, reverse the number of students who have chosen to attend public and charter schools in other communities.

The project includes extensive renovations to the entire building, including greatly enhanced technology throughout the school; a new entrance and commons/cafeteria area; and demolition of two existing academic wings, one of which will be replaced with a new two-story classroom pod with large-group instructional space. The existing courtyard will be in-filled with a new library/media center; a small addition to the front of the building will provide space for band and chorus; and a second-floor addition will include new art and computer classrooms. There will be significantly improved spaces for special education and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programming, and exterior site work will address traffic flow and safety concerns in the parking lot and at the entrance to the campus.

Voters in Ayer on Nov. 17, will be provided with two ballot questions, the first asking them whether or not to approve the high school project. The second question will ask them for a debt exclusion to fund the project.

Voters in Shirley on Nov. 17, will be provided the same two ballot questions as in Ayer. The first asking whether or not to approve the high school project and the second will ask them for a debt exclusion to fund the project.

Question 1 to approve the project must pass by a simple majority between the total votes of the two towns. Question 2 (the debt exclusions) must pass individually in each town by a simple majority.

In conclusion, each town has prepared a financial impact analysis which illustrates the projected the costs, debt, and tax impact of the project to residents in Ayer and Shirley. This information can be found on the Ayer town website http://www.ayer.ma.us/pages/AyerMA_Bcomm/Finance/FinCom-Schools%2010-24-20212.pdf and the Shirley Town Website http://www.shirley-ma.gov/Pages/ShirleyMA_News/I019B1D4F.0/TRE_ASRSDSchoolProjectsbasedonFY13data10232012.pdf and the ASRSD web-site http://www.asrsd.org/pages/AyerShirleyRSD/ASRSD_Bldg_Committee .

Additionally, in the weeks leading up to Nov. 17, there will be various public hearings and presentations (formal and informal) in both towns regarding this project. Two formal public forums will be held; the first on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Ayer Shirley Regional Middle School in Shirley and the second on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Ayer Shirley Regional High School in Ayer.

Polls will be open in both towns from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov.17. Ayer voters will vote at the Ayer Town Hall, and Shirley voters will vote at the Shirley Town Offices. Absentee ballots are available. For more information about voting, please contact the Ayer and Shirley Town Clerks respectively at 978-772-8215 (Ayer) and 978-425-2600 ext. 205 (Shirley).

This press release and information were prepared collaboratively by the town of Ayer, town of Shirley and Ayer Shirley Regional School District professional personnel. This press release and information are available on the town of Ayer, town of Shirley and ASRSD websites.