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Norwood-Norfolk board president discusses consolidation study

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NORFOLK — The Board of Education president at Norwood-Norfolk Central School said that based on a recent study that was done to explore merger possibilities among three schools, it’s something other schools could look at in the future.

“A ton of information has been generated by those talks already. Some interesting statistics have been looked at and considered. The bottom line is it’s financially feasible for those schools. I couldn’t see why it wouldn’t be financially feasible for other districts as well,” Jon D. Hazen told board of education members during their recent meeting.

A recent study indicated that creating a regional school at Heuvelton Central School for grades seven to 12 was the most viable option for three of St. Lawrence County’s smaller school districts. Approximately 150 people, including Mr. Hazen, attended a two-hour presentation that outlined merger options for Hermon-DeKalb, Heuvelton and Morristown central schools.

Like most other north country schools, those districts face dwindling revenue sources that have forced staffing and program cuts over the past several years.

Philip M. Martin, a consultant from Educorps, Albany, presented his findings in a 74-page tuitioning/merger study report that indicated the most feasible plan was creating a regional school for grades seven to 12, which would preserve all three districts for the lower grade levels.

The regional school would be housed in Heuvelton, which is centrally located among the three districts and has space available to accommodate the additional students, according to the report.

It could operate in one of two ways — the creation of a new independent school district with its own board of education and superintendent, or a new district operating under the auspices of BOCES.

That option would be cost-effective for all three districts, partly because the number of teaching positions could be reduced from 50.4 to 38, according to the report.

Besides saving money, Mr. Martin said, a regional high school would provide an opportunity to expand course offerings, elective classes and extracurricular activities for students.

Merging the three districts into a single district was among the six options studied in the report.

That would generate an estimated $22.4 million in state incentive aid over a 14-year period, but each community would lose its identity as a separate school district operating its own elementary schools.

Another option involved having Hermon-DeKalb and Morristown pay tuition to have their students attend Heuvelton. This scenario would be financially beneficial for Heuvelton and Morristown, but not for Hermon-DeKalb, which would lose $1.75 million in foundation aid.

Mr. Hazen said he was curious about how many meetings officials from the three schools had before they sat down and explored the plan.

“It was clear they were very early on in the discussions. It’s not gone before the full board in any of the schools,” he said, noting they were now at the point where they could discuss which scenario would work best for their district.

“They’re looking for a win-win-win situation,” Mr. Hazen said.

What that study revealed could be used by any number of districts, according to the board president.

“It wasn’t just Hermon-DeKalb, Heuvelton and Morristown. What’s been done there could apply anywhere else using a template designed by the consultant,” he said

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