The wait is over.

The first selectmen of towns in the Region 12 school district gathered Oct. 28 at Bridgewater Town Hall with school and Board of Education officials to sign long-awaited leases on the elementary schools.

The leases for Burnham School in Bridgewater, Booth Free School in Roxbury and Washington Primary School were three years in the making and went through several drafts.

They came after a lawsuit brought by the town of Bridgewater stopped consolidation of the three elementary schools via a July 2009 State Supreme Court decision.

Residents in all three towns voted to accept the documents at town meetings held last week.

"It took a long time coming but I think it's a good lease," said Roxbury First Selectman Barbara Henry. "I'm glad we waited until it could be concise. We now have a good document representing a good understanding of what we all expect."

The lease(s) establish 10 years of use of the three schools by the district and set rent of the buildings at $1 a year to each town, with insurance and operating expenses as the region's responsibility to pay.

A provision allows for a breaking of the lease(s) if consolidation to one central building is decided on in the future, Lease Committee chairman Greg Cava of Roxbury explained.

Declining student populations has kept the discussion of consolidation alive, with some residents of Washington among the strong proponents for one central elementary school.

However, the lease(s) could be extended to 20 years if it were to be decided in the first half of the lease to keep the three separate schools active.

"I'm very pleased the voters in our towns saw fit to approve the leases," said Board of Education chairman James Hirschfield. "This is a good thing for the towns and the region for short-term management of our primary schools issue."

"Greg Cava did an outstanding job," he added. "I am grateful to all involved and very pleased."

With the signing of the leases, a $2.3 million bond package previously approved by voters can now be obtained for repairs underway at all three schools.

Having the district undertake the much needed repairs was a key element in lease negotiations.

"This is a good thing for the towns and the region for short-term management of our primary schools issue."

James Hirschfield

Region 12 Board of Education chairman

Norm Cummings/Spectrum

First Selectman Bill Stuart of Bridgewater signs a long-awaited lease for the Region 12 elementary schools during a brief and upbeat ceremony Oct. 21 at Bridgewater Town Hall. Among those sharing the moment are, seated, from left to right, Bridgeater Board of Education member Mardie Ford, Board of Education chairman James Hirschfield of Washington and Roxbury Board of Education member Greg Cava; standing, Superintendent Dr. Bruce Storm, Roxbury First Selectman Barbara Henry and Washington First Selectman Mark Lyon.