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There might be hope for Morristown students

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I’m glad to see that Morristown Central School officials want to look at a short-term solution to making sure students get a sound education, rather than putting all their eggs into a basket that might never materialize.

The basket I’m referring to is the regional high school idea. Board of Education members have started talking about paying tuition for Morristown students to attend Ogdensburg in the short term. Although Morristown is still spending $10,000 as its share of a $30,000 study to see whether a regional high school is feasible, some board members don’t seem confident that it’s ever going to happen.

I could have saved the district $10,000 on that study. The regional high school idea is not feasible. The north country’s state lawmakers are not clamoring to support legislation authorizing the creation of such a thing. Two of them, state Sen. Betty O’C. Little, R-Queensbury, and Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, have said they don’t think new legislation is a good idea, and that the schools should use the state’s existing legal framework to find a solution.

Without legislation creating regional high schools, the idea will never become reality.

Even if state lawmakers overwhelmingly supported the concept, there are a lot of questions about whether a regional high school would create a more efficient, cost-effective way to educate our kids.

My understanding of this nebulous idea is so far this: each of the schools looking at a regional high school – Morristown, Heuvelton and Hermon-DeKalb – in that model would each keep their own administration, boards of education, and elementary schools. While I think it’s important for each school to keep its own elementary school, maintaining each school’s current administrative structure kind of defeats the whole purpose of them joining forces to save money and create efficiencies. Plus, I doubt Heuvelton Central School, which has been identified as the place where the regional high school would be located, can accommodate students from two other districts without a building expansion project at taxpayers’ expense.

A merger would also preserve elementary schools while cutting costs and streamlining oversight by consolidating the schools’ boards of education and administration with neighboring districts. That much we know because a framework for mergers is well established in state law. Schools have merged in the past with pretty good success.

Our children’s educational future is far too important to gamble on the unknown quantity that a regional high school holds.When you get right down to it, the regional high school effort is rooted in the desire for each school to keep its own identity, and that is absurd. Identity should not be preserved at the cost of our kids’ futures.

Although a merger with another school district is most likely the way to go, it is also a long-term solution, and Morristown’s students can’t wait that long.Superintendent David Glover has said the district is one year away from educational insolvency. A merger may be more in reach than a regional high school, but it is still out of reach as an immediate solution.

The next step is for Morristown and Ogdensburg school officials to have a serious talk about paying tuition for Morristown students to attend the city school district. I was pleased to read last week that some Morristown Board of Education members agree that option needs to be immediately pursued. It would be wonderful if the two schools could come up with an agreement quickly. Ogdensburg Superintendent Tim Vernsey and Board of Education President Fred Bean have said they are very open to the idea of absorbing Morristown’s students.

While that would be great news for students, the Morristown school administration and board has yet to talk about what might happen to their high school teachers if their students are sent to Ogdensburg. St. Lawrence County already has too many unemployed teachers. I would hope there is a chance to discuss opportunities for Morristown’s teachers as well.

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