By JOHN BORGOLINI
MAYFIELD - As the straw vote for the Mayfield-Northville school district merger nears, some residents in both towns and villages are still divided over how to deal with the financial challenges facing the districts' educational and sports programs.
District officials have stressed the improvements this move will make for educational purposes, but they have also recognized it would result in the two districts' current sports programs combining into teams that would play at a higher level of competition.
Shelley Murphy, who coaches girls soccer at Mayfield High School and used to coach at Northville, shares the same belief as many residents - the merger would be good for education purposes, but not for sports programs.
"We'll be bumped up to a B-size school, and I think it will be hard for the kids for a couple of years," Shelley said. "The kids aren't going to see much playing time or will get cut. [But] academic-wise, it will be good for the kids. It will offer more opportunities."
Each district sent a "Merger Matters" newsletter to its residents, explaining that if the merger happens, Mayfield property owners' school taxes would decrease while Northville property owners' would stay about the same.
The newsletter also says it would also allow for more sports opportunities - letting the merged district field modified, JV and varsity sports teams without struggling financially.
Northville Athletic Director John Karbowski said he believes this would benefit both athletics and education, and he understands it would ease the funding burden on the booster club.
"I would say from an athletic standpoint [the merger would be good]," Karbowski said. "There are pros and cons. As far as athletic teams go, there would be cuts which is something we're not used to. It would certainly strengthen our programs, but at the same time you would see more cuts for certain sports."
The newsletter also explains if the merger doesn't go through, the schools could have to cut several non-mandated programs, including: elementary art and music, elementary and high school libraries/media centers, high school electives, extracurricular activities including interscholastic sports, and kindergarten and pre-kindergarten.
Some residents remain opposed to the merger and believe there are ways around these cuts.
"What we need is more sports and arts," said Northville resident Deb Bant. "I'm not for [the merger] myself. I just think there are other options."
Bant, who has two grandchildren who attend Northville Central Schools, said she believes the district can save money by cutting officials' salaries.
Fellow Northville resident Bobbi VanNostrand said the communities should take the opportunity to merge their schools while the state is still offering a financial incentive to do so.
"We're going to be forced, so now that we're being offered an incentive from the [schools] to do it for our children's sake, we should do it," VanNostrand said.
The first vote, a straw vote, will take place Sept. 18 and will decide whether or not there will be a final, binding vote on Oct. 25.
John Borgolini can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.