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The Times
  • School officials laying foundation for merged district

  • Oppenheim-Ephratah voters last month approved a merger with the St. Johnsville Central School District in a 385 to 366 vote. Since the time the proposal passed, school officials from both districts have met to begin to shape what the merged school district will look like, and will meet again on Jan. 10. That meet...
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  • Oppenheim-Ephratah voters last month approved a merger with the St. Johnsville Central School District in a 385 to 366 vote.
    Since the time the proposal passed, school officials from both districts have met to begin to shape what the merged school district will look like, and will meet again on Jan. 10. That meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Oppenheim-Ephratah and the agenda will include discussion on programs and staffing.
    Items previously discussed by the districts’ administrators and boards of education include the Jan. 29 vote on the size of the new school board and term lengths for board members, the March 29 board of education election and negotiations with bargaining units for the new unions. The appointment of a superintendent and business manager for the merged district was also discussed.
    Oppenheim-Ephratah Superintendent of Schools Dan Russom said previously during a telephone interview the existing boards of education must also work on a budget for the merged district.
    “Even though it will be the task of the new board of education to finalize the budget, the current boards need to begin to formulate a spending plan,” he said. “That has to be a top priority, as does scheduling. By putting together a schedule for the merged middle and high schools, the current boards and the new board will be able to determine staffing needs, which will affect the budget.”
    Also since the vote took place, a transitioning committee made up of five people each from the Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville school districts has been formed. The committee will address questions and will be involved in the planning of what the merged school district will look like.
    A year ago, Oppenheim-Ephratah residents rejected the proposed merger in a vote of 458 to 400.
    St. Johnsville school voters approved the merger in December 2011.
    According to the merger report, the merger will help both districts by paying for 98 percent of any construction in the first 10 years of the merged district and an additional $14 million in aid over 14 years to make improvements, expand curriculum, stabilize property taxes and build savings. The districts will also benefit from higher state aid on the remaining capital debt, saving $390,000.
    If the new board of education follows the merger study, each district would keep its elementary school. Students in grades 6 to 8 would attend the current Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School and students in grades 9 through 12 would attend the current St. Johnsville Junior-Senior High School.
    The merger will take effect on July 1.
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