School mergers may be part of state plan
TRI-COUNTY AREA—One proposal that has surfaced during discussions of school aid in the past and has been heard during the current financial crisis, particularly for districts that have less than 1,000 students, is mergers.
Superintendents in the area with districts in that enrollment category also spoke about mergers during conversations about the anticipated impact of New York State budget difficulties on school budgets.
Dundee Central School District Superintendent Nancy Zimar said, “I strongly believe it’s an issue of local choice. Merger or consolidation has been available for years.”
Hammondsport superintendent Kyle Bower said, “I don’t know what benefit consolidation would produce. Some kids here are now on the bus for an hour.” He noted transportation, having the same number of kids and the possibility of needing to build new buildings as things that would all have to be considered.
Bower said some districts that have consolidated, such as Canisteo-Greenwood, found there were not much savings once the incentive money was gone. There are a lot of details that would have to be worked out.
James Frame is superintendent at Odessa-Montour Central School District. He said, “I am certainly in favor of taxpayer savings for efficiency. I believe we have a good partnership with the community and feel the community should have a say in what happens in our district. Our building runs about 14 hours a day from breakfast, school, extracurricular activities, sports to evenings. If we weren’t here the kids would have nothing to do. We need to look at the long term effects on the community.”
Busing was mentioned as a concern. Frame said, “We now bus a fair distance. The district is big. I don’t want our kids to travel two hours and be part of a class of 35.”
Watkins Glen and Penn Yan school districts have more than 1.000 students. However, there has been some discussion of increasing shared services among districts of enrollment of less than 2,000 students. The three fall in that category. Shared services are part of district’s focus, either in maintaining current practices or exploring possibilities with local municipalities.