Thursday, April 24, 2014 - 5:36:01 PM

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Chenango Forks/Valley Consolidation Study Unveiled

Merger talks between the Chenango Forks and Chenango Valley Schools Districts continued Thursday at a joint school board meeting.

Both school boards and the public were presented with the findings and recommendations of the consolidation study to help decide whether to move forward with merging Forks and Valley.

The study doesn't say outright if merging is the way to go or not, but it does offer recommendations, which conclude that a merger would benefit learning, and strengthen fiscal responsibility.

According to the study, the estimated savings resulting from the merger would be $1,032,351.

The study recommends that both high schools operate out of the current Chenango Valley High School, and the middle schools operate from the current Chenango Forks Middle school.  It also recommends a plan to close the Port Dickison Elementary School.

There would also be staffing cuts, mostly in the administrative office, and 35 athletic coaches. There will be no reduction in teaching positions proposed for the 2014-2015 school year.

Chenango Forks resident Lisa Warner is not on board with the merger.  Warner said her 14-year old daughter Kylee, who is currently a sophomore at Chenango Forks, would like to graduate high school from her own school, not one that merged with Chenango Valley.

"I don't feel that either school district would benefit from it.  Mostly for the tax payers, and for the kids who the merger is supposed to be for," said Warner.

Warner raised concern for the reduction on the athletics program if the schools were to merge.

"I understand it as there would be about 500 less students who would be able to join a sports team.  In this day and age, it's a reason to keep them in school.  We don't need them to find other things to do," said Warner.

Interim Chenango Valley Superintendent David Gill said the challenges in this study are the disparity in the tax rate, and the programs and the offering of extra curricular activities.

"Those are the two crucial things... That seemed to be the focus.  Financially, what does it mean, how does it benefit me as a tax payer, and for my children?  What kind of programs and offerings are going to be available to them?" said Gill.

There is a more than $44-million merger incentive operating aid over a 14 year period.

There will be a six week public comment period, which includes a public hearing scheduled for Wednesday, October 2nd in the Chenango Forks Middle School Cafeteria.

Both school boards have to separately approve the merger in order for it go up for a straw poll vote to the public in November, then a statutory vote on January.

If all parties approve the merger, it will go in effect for the 2014-2015 school year.

The study's findings can be found on both district's websites.

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