Community merger committee looks at enrollment and buildings
The Community Advisory Committee took another step
toward answering the question— how might a merged school look—as it
met for the second time on Thursday. Feb. 3 at Herkimer BOCES. (see
complete agenda (PDF))
SES Study Team led the group step by step through
multiple sets of data related to the geography of the districts,
student enrollments, class sizes, and building capacities. The
committee will ultimately use that data to help determine whether a
merger would be in the best interest of the four communities and their
Answering the questions
At the first meeting, each committee member wrote
down three questions he or she felt needed to be answered by someone
during the study. SES consultant Doug Exsley began the evening by
sharing the complete list of those questions neatly divided into
“When conducting a merger study you have to ask
these sorts of questions,” said SES consultant Doug Exley pointing to
the list of questions. “You’ve done a great job. These ARE those
questions—and more so.”
Each question was followed by a blank column
labeled “status.” The team encouraged committee members to check off
each question as it is answered (see the list of questions (PDF)).
By the end of the study, SES consultant Paul
Seversky explained that the committee needed to ask, “Were the
“That is the key,” he said.
Before diving into new topics, Dr. Seversky
returned to a comment made at the January meeting. A member had
suggested that the demographics of Herkimer County were changing in
recent years by a rapid influx of people seeking social services. Dr.
Seversky learned from Herkimer County Social Services that there has
been little change over the last three years.
The meeting then focused on answering three
What is the geography of
the merged district and where are the schools located?
Who and how many students would attend?
What facilities resources are available?
A look at the geography
To get a better picture of a reorganized district,
the committee examined a map outlining the four school districts. A
separate chart showed the area of each district and the relative
mileage between the various schools (see
the map and
the chart (PDF)).
Each subcommittee—finance/personnel, program, and
functional services—looked the map and chart making observations and
trying to determine the opportunities presented and challenges posed
by the size of a merged district and the location of the current
A combined district would be 117 square miles
(compared to West Canada at 112 square miles and Adirondack at 398
With the exception of West Schuyler Elementary,
the schools are clustered within the villages.
The furthest distance between schools is 8 miles
(excluding West Schuyler Elementary).
They recognized opportunities for:
The possibility of after school activity buses,
Greater efficiencies and improved economies of
Separating younger children from older students,
of closing unnecessary buildings.
They also recognized challenges including:
Longer bus rides for some students,
Transitioning, especially younger students, to new
Melding two districts that own buses with two
districts that contract for bussing,
Increased travel for interscholastic sports, and
Overcoming longtime rivalries.
Who will the district serve?
To get a sense of what student population a
combined district might serve, SES Study Team presented three sets of
Enrollment Projection Calculations (pdf)—This corrected
data set from the first meeting shows an estimate of how many students
would served by the individual and combined districts over the next 10
Federal Census Demographics Estimates (PDF)—The data
reveal that the communities are surprisingly similar in terms of age,
sex, marital status, income, education, education, profession, and
length of time in the community. The data indicates that the students
and families of one community are very similar to those in the other
2010-11 Grade Level Class Section Enrollments (PDF)—This
breakdown of current enrollment lists the number of students in each
classroom in each school.
How big are our buildings?
A merged district would need sufficient space to
house students in elementary, middle/junior high, and high schools.
SES Study Team collected the actual square footage of every classroom
in the districts’ buildings. Using formulas developed by the State
Education Department, the study team calculated the capacity of each
building (see the data (PDF)).
Seversky noted that the buildings’ configurations
and size could clearly meet the needs of a centralized district
without requiring any new construction. In fact, the merged district
would likely have excess space.
Dr. Seversky instructed each committee member to
take the data sets home and review them, again looking for
opportunities and challenges presented by a merged district.
Timetables and questions related to governance
SES Study Team presented a serious of questions and
answers related to how and when a reorganized would come into being.
If the four school boards all agree to a merger, each community would
hold a straw vote to determine community interest. If all four
communities agree to move forward, the boards of education request
that the State Education Department to become involved. After formal
petitions are filed, the communities would hold a formal referendum
(in early March). If passed by all four communities, the new district
begins operation July 1, 2012. (read the detailed schedule (PDF))
The committee meets again at 6:30 p.m. on
Wednesday, Mar. 2 at Herkimer BOCES.