Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Chatham-Harwich Regionalization Project

Project Summary

In today’s difficult economy, many smaller school districts across the state have been struggling to make ends meet without compromising the quality of education their students receive. There has been much talk and debate about the notion of regionalization – i.e. the merging of multiple small school districts within a geographical area into a single, larger district. Good arguments have been made here and across the nation about the benefits and drawbacks of school district regionalization. When the economy continued to decline in recent years, the towns of Chatham and Harwich both recognized their common interest in preserving quality education for their students and seized the opportunity to come together to revisit the possibility of regionalizing their school districts. To support this effort, in the summer of 2009, the towns proactively reached out to the Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration (MOPC) for assistance with facilitating a collaborative problem-solving  and process for their regionalization planning activities.

MOPC, with input from the towns and various stakeholders, designed and facilitated meetings of the Harwich-Chatham Regional School District Planning Board.  MOPC conducted interviews with and solicited input from stakeholders and helped the Board engage the community in an ongoing dialogue which included boards of selectmen, community organizations, and other town boards and committees, parents and students.  As a result, the Planning Board released a report which recommended regionalization and documented millions of dollars in operating cost savings to both towns.  The report also highlighted the additional course offerings that would be made available to students as a result of regionalization.

Synchronized special town meetings were held in Chatham and Harwich on December 7, 2010 to allow voters to weigh-in on the concept of a joint school district. Under the proposed regionalization plan, the towns would keep their elementary schools, the middle school would be relocated to Chatham High School, and a new high school would be built at the site of the Harwich High School with half of its construction costs covered by the state. Educational costs would be shared by the towns in proportion to the size of their respective student populations. Over all, student enrollment would be enlarged, thereby preserving educational programs and opportunities, yet remain small enough for small, connected learning communities to continue.  The regionalization plan passed by an overwhelming margin in Harwich (766 to 21) and narrowly in Chatham (592 to 531).


Contract between University of MA Boston and Harwich School Department. June 23, 2009.

Leggett, D. (August 1, 2010). School merger idea takes shape. The Cape Codder. Retrieved June 4, 2012, from

Leggett, D. (November 17, 2010). State backs Harwich and Chatham school merger. The Cape Codder.

Milton, S. (December 7, 2010). Chatham, Harwich OK schools merger. Cape Cod Times. Retrieved June 4, 2012, from

Goodrich, J. (December 8, 2009). Roadmap for the January to June Board Meetings. MODR.