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Education commissioner hopeful regional high school concept moves forward


BRASHER FALLS — As the state tries to deal with its fiscal problems, an issue that affects schools trying to build their budgets, state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said he hopes lawmakers will look more favorably on regionalization of schools.

He said that while the Board of Regents put forth a proposal last year, it garnered some discussion but was not passed by lawmakers.

“I’m hopeful it will move forward this year,” Mr. King said during a visit Friday to St. Lawrence Central School.

Morristown, Hermon-DeKalb and Heuvelton central schools are contemplating a regional high school.

Senate Bill 7486, brought to the floor by state Sen. John J. Flanagan, R-Smithtown, would give school districts across the state the ability to form regional high schools. But Mr. Flanagan’s bill so far has failed to make it out of the Senate.

At present, school districts may merge or send their students to another district and pay tuition.

Regional high schools aren’t the only approach that schools can use to save money, said Mr. King, who was appointed to his post in May 2011.

“The Board of Regents has put forth a number of proposals,” including one that would have local Boards of Cooperative Educational Services providing more services to component districts.

“I think the realization is we have to streamline, given our resources,” Mr. King said.

He said technology also will have to play a major role as districts try to make best use of their budget dollars. That will allow districts to provide more opportunities for students.

For instance, Mr. King said, students might be able to take advantage of advanced placement courses online that might not be offered at their school.

“They can blend with other districts,” he said.

He noted that one school in the Capital Region used distance learning via the Internet to allow students to observe knee replacement surgery at a hospital in Ohio.

“At the end of the surgery the doctor makes himself available to debrief with students,” he said.

Those are the types of initiatives schools will have to examine as funds became scarcer, Mr. King said, but districts will have the state Education Department in their corner to assist them.

“Certainly the state Education Department, along with the Board of Regents, will advocate” for the needs of schools to continue providing a quality education to students, he said.

At the same time, he said, districts have to be cognizant of the state’s fiscal situation.

“There are no easy answers,” he said.

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