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Out of step

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It’s unfortunate that officials at the Gouverneur Central School District opted against considering a proposal to either merge or share services with Hermon-DeKalb Central School.

Representatives of the school contacted other districts in the north country to explore the possibilities of at least consolidating some services.

Hermon-DeKalb is one of many school districts throughout the state facing financial difficulties, and some have begun talks about the advantages of either merging into larger districts or sharing some services to reduce expenses.

Hermon-DeKalb, Heuvelton and Morristown central school districts funded a $30,000 study to explore the benefits of creating a regional high school.

This would allow them to channel their resources on elementary education.

The study reported that forming a regional high school for students in seventh through 12th grades with its own governing body would collectively save the three districts more than $872,000.

Not only would the districts save money, true value tax rates would decline for property owners in these areas, according to the study prepared by education consultant Phillip M. Martin.

But no state law exists that would permitting school districts to form an independent regional high school.

Members of the New York State Legislature have so far failed to pursue a bill that would allow this to happen.

Officials at both Hermon-DeKalb Central and Gouverneur Central engaged in informal talks about consolidating services, but this yielded no fruit.

Gouverneur Central Superintendent Lauren F. French said there were too many obstacles to make such an arrangement feasible.

The difference in each school’s student population was one of the main problems, she said.

“There’s no mechanism in place that addresses the needs of a school with an enrollment of 1,600 and a school of 400,” Mrs. French said. “It just was not advantageous. … For right now, it’s rejected.”

Mrs. French held out hope that the issue could be brought up later on.

But as far as Gouverneur Central is concerned, the proposal is a no-go for the time being, she said.

It’s understandable that some big challenges exist to combine the services of two schools with huge disparities in enrollments.

And the fact that the two schools are more than 14 miles apart doesn’t help matters any.

But school districts need to become creative about resolving their mounting financial problems.

Local children deserve quality education, and they deserve the same opportunity as other students across New York.

As time goes on, north country schools are retreating from this obligation.

More districts are finding it necessary to cut academic programs because of a loss of revenue, thus reducing the options students have in their course selections.

This has raised the possibility of educational bankruptcy, where students would no longer be able to earn a Regents diploma.

Some districts may consider asking voters to approve increases in their budgets.

But this isn’t likely to happen as residents are facing many of the same financial strains.

Who has the money to pay more in taxes these days?

Members of the State Legislature should move on the idea of allowing the creation of regional high schools.

This would enable districts to explore the cost-saving opportunities this would provide and deliver better service.

In the meantime, districts must be more cooperative with each other when it comes to funding issues.

Shared services may be the best option for some schools right now, and delaying action for another year only penalizes even more students.

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