The new school year will start Tuesday, Aug. 26 in Region 12.

Superintendent of Schools Pat Cosentino plans to begin it on a positive note.

Cosentino is banking on a new public relations firm's presentations and interaction with the towns to heal the the animosity of the previous two years as region residents debated the school district's future.

"The only way the region can continue on a positive track is to come together on something we all have in common," Cosentino said Monday, Aug. 18 to the Board of Education. "And we have Shepaug Valley School in common. We need to decide on the work that has to be done here before the New England Association of Schools & Colleges review in 2015, and prepare for another referendum requesting funds to do the repairs and renovations."

The accreditation review is scheduled during the 2015-16 school year at Shepaug Valley School, the district's middle/high school.

Outdated science labs and other aspects of the school have to be upgraded before then, Cosentino said.

The region has a sharply declining student population. Enrollment for the 2014-15 school year is anticipated at 749 students.

Cosentino said she is ready to support the Board of Education as it moves the region forward, but "cannot lead the effort again."

She came to the region last year, hired by the board to bring about the consolidation of elementary grades and rejuvenate the middle/high school.

Last spring, a vote to fund building a new consolidated elementary school on the Shepaug campus was soundly defeated.

Funding the renvations and repair at Shepaug Valley School was also shot down with the same vote.

"I've accepted that we will continue to have three elementary schools," Cosentino said. "We need to decide on what options we want to enact to keep them open. We are conducting a study on having multi-grade classrooms. It's the only way to successfully educate and socialize the children."

First selectmen of the three towns, Board of Education members and administrators were to meet Wednesday, Aug. 20, to discuss the future of the region.

A long-range planning committee of board members, and possibly one representative from each town, is expected to be formed.

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322