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The Times
  • New study answers questions about Valley school merger

  • How big will a new merged district be?

    What classes will be offered?

    How fast will all this happen if voters approve it?

    A new study of a possible merger of Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk school districts looks a lot like a study that residents digested in the fall prior to a failed effort to merge those three school systems with the Frankfort-Schuyler School District.

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  • How big will a new merged district be?
    What classes will be offered?
    How fast will all this happen if voters approve it?
    A new study of a possible merger of Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk school districts looks a lot like a study that residents digested in the fall prior to a failed effort to merge those three school systems with the Frankfort-Schuyler School District.
    But it is more specific, hoping to address some of the main concerns expressed in a survey of residents after the January straw vote failed to be passed in Frankfort-Schuyler.
    Ilion Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. said key issues identified in the survey were the size of the student body; the geographic size of a new district and the timeline of starting a new district.
    “Folks that were concerned about the size of the four-district merger will discover that the three-district merger is 25 percent fewer students,” Tangorra said. “In geography, it’s diminished by 33 percent. Those that thought it was too big, they have their answer.”
    If all three districts were combined this school year, the enrollment would be 3,504. Separately, the largest school district is Ilion with 1,554 students; the smallest is Mohawk with 785.
    The study also has specific classes that could be offered in the new district, which was another complaint people had about the last study.
    The first vote, a straw vote or advisory referendum, will take place Sept. 12. If successful in all three districts, a binding referendum will take place Oct. 18. From there, the former boards of education would run things until July 1, 2013, while a new merged district board of education would be elected to organize the district for the 2013-14 school year.
    “The main thing I hope people take away from this study is it answers the same question the original one did,” Tangorra said — whether one larger district could be run more efficiently with richer programming than separately.
    “The answer to the four-district study was yes,” he said. “That’s the same answer as the study of the three districts.”
    Among the findings in the study:
    Just like the four-district study, all of the districts’ buildings, except Ilion’s Remington Road Elementary School, would be used. That building is scheduled to be closed.
    According to the study’s “suggested prime building use plan,” each district would have a pre-kindergarten through fourth-grade elementary school. An upper elementary school in Mohawk’s Gregory B. Jarvis Junior-Senior High School would house fifth- and sixth-graders. Herkimer High School would be the new middle school and Ilion would be the high school.
    Students could attend the elementary school in their community, or if another happens to be closer, parents could request their child attend that school.
    Page 2 of 2 - School taxes would go down in Mohawk and Herkimer and stay the same in Ilion. For example, taxes on a $100,000 home in Herkimer in 2012-13 are projected to be $2,051, $2,108 in Mohawk and $1,723 in Ilion. In a reorganized district, a home with that value would be assessed $1,723 across every community in the district.
    Just like the previous study, bus rides are estimated to be 45 minutes or less, but no more than an hour. Earliest pickup times for each grade level vary from 6:50 a.m. for fifth- through 12th-graders in Herkimer, to 7:15 a.m. for pre-kindergarten through sixth-graders in Ilion and Mohawk.
    Kindergarten through sixth grade would start school at 8:20 a.m., seventh through eighth at 8:10 a.m. and the high school at 7:55 a.m.
    The number of bus routes in the new district would double from 26 to 52. Also, since Mohawk and Herkimer have their own buses, and Ilion contracts with Birnie Bus, transportation would be a combination of the two at first.
    “Within the first two years of the new school district it is suggested that the district review, analyze and study the delivery of transportation services to identify ways, if any, that the service can be delivered more efficiently,” the report reads.
    The larger district would be able to offer more educational and extracurricular activities than the current cash-strapped districts, but what’s clear Tangorra said, is that there will be less available to students without the merger.
    “Neither Herkimer, nor Ilion nor Mohawk will be able to provide the same programs in the 2013-14 school year that they can provide in the 2012-13 school year,” he said.
    “I can’t think of any reason why someone who supported the measure the first time, wouldn’t support it the second time.”
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