Questions about school aid, curriculum, transportation and building usage were among the concerns raised by citizens at the third public information session regarding the proposed three school district merger at Ilion Junior-Senior High School on Thursday.
For a third time, the superintendents at each of the school districts laid out the “road map” based on the study compiled by SES Study Group in 2011 when a four school district merger was being considered. That merger was voted down by Frankfort-Schuyler voters in January, though the proposal was approved by Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk voters.
Now the three remaining school districts are moving forward with a revised study that takes Frankfort-Schuyler out of the equation. Ilion Central School District Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. said the three district study addressed some of the concerns people had about the four school district merger, including the size of the merged school district which would be 36 percent smaller.
One citizen asked about the usage of the Jarvis Junior-Senior High School building in Mohawk, which underwent renovations after a fire at the school. In the study, Jarvis would be used as an upper-elementary school, for fifth and sixth grader students.
“[We] wanted a central location for those students,” said Mohawk Central School District Superintendent Joyce Caputo. “It was thought that the seventh and eighth grade students could use the swimming pool [at Herkimer High School] for swimming opportunities.”
Tangorra acknowledged building usage has been among the sore topics some residents have had, but also many different configurations were considered.
Elementary school students would still attend school in their current district. In Ilion, only Barringer Road Elementary School would be used for students; Remington Elementary would have another use.
A resident also asked about the $58,935,009 in incentive aid from the state which would be given to the new school district, should it form. When asked if that money was guaranteed, Tangorra said “nothing is guaranteed ... [but] the reorganization aid is going to be available. There’s a greater chance you are going to get it than not going to get it.”
Tangorra noted, too, that under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration the state has been pushing for merging and reorganization of school districts and municipalities.
Some of those who filed into the Ilion High School auditorium on Thursday bore a ribbon on their collar, with the colors representing Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk, to show their support for a merger.
Residents of a Philip Street home made their support of the proposed merger clear with big red letters painted on their garage, which said voters should vote “yes” on Sept. 12.
Tangorra said he wants voters to have their facts straight when they make their decision.
“Go to the booths to make an informed decision knowing the accurate information. I’m awed at the misinformation that still exists. There’s quite a bit of it,” he said, adding sometimes people don’t like the responses he gives them to a question they have, or others don’t believe it.
Page 2 of 2 - The final informational meeting will take place at Herkimer County Community College on Aug. 22. Each of the school districts have conducted one informational meeting a single time in each district.
The straw vote is scheduled for Sept. 12. If all three school districts approve, then there will be a binding referendum on Oct. 18. Voters will also decide on the make-up of the school board and the terms of office at the same time should the merger be approved. School board elections would take place on Dec. 19.