Worthington plan to withdraw from Gateway worries other towns

HUNTINGTON, Mass. (WWLP) – The town of Worthington has filed a petition with the state legislature to withdraw from the Gateway Regional School District, but that request is not sitting well with the other communities in the district.

Gateway Regional serves six other towns spread out over western portions of Hampden and Hampshire Counties, including Blandford, Chester, Huntington, Middlefield, Montgomery and Russell.

Each of those towns rejected Worthington’s request to withdraw from the district.

The western Hampshire County town of about 1,100 residents filed a petition with the state, asking permission to bypass the district voting and unilaterally withdraw. Their petition passed the state Senate.

Montgomery Selectboard Chair Dan Jaques told 22News that if Worthington withdraws, there will be a $630,000 annual budget shortfall that the other towns will be forced to absorb.

Jacques says that it would affect their finances and the quality of education.

“As declining enrollments continue in declining populations, which is what the Hilltowns are faced with, what happens to the educational quality of the kids with the withdrawal of Worthington? What are the true costs?” Jacques said.

The other six towns in the district have asked to meet with Mitchell Chester, the state’s Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, to talk about the potential impacts of Worthington’s withdrawal.

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