OPPENHEIM - With residents of the Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District set to vote again Tuesday on whether to merge their district with St. Johnsville's, the O-E Board of Education on Thursday discussed one possible money-saving move in case the merger vote fails.
Board President Ben Conte said the district should have someone gather information about the possibility of shutting down its school and sending students to Dolgeville, Johnstown or St. Johnsville.
"If this merger isn't passed, I think we should be looking at tuitioning out students pre-K through 12," Conte said. "[We should] put in for a grant from the state to find somebody to do this."
The Leader-Herald/John Borgolini
Oppenheim-Ephratah school board officials discussed the possibility of tuitioning out their students to three area schools Thursday night. From left: Susanne Sammons, Board President Ben Conte, Superintendent Dan Russom and Brett Barr.
The discussion then focused on maintaining the elementary school and sending students to another district for their education starting in seventh grade.
Superintendent Dan Russom and board members discussed concerns including the loss of jobs and the future of the school district.
Board member Cheryl Lynch said in talks with state officials, she has asked about the district's substantiability.
"I asked, 'If the merger is voted down and the budget is voted down, how long can this district last?' [A state official] told me, 'Three to five years,'" Lynch said. "... And how long would we last if we were just an elementary school?"
Area residents expressed their concerns about the idea of sending secondary students to another district. Local parents of those students wouldn't be able to vote on budgets or other matters pertaining to their children's education.
"Will I have a say?" Holly Brundage asked. "Why don't we merge so we can come here and have a say? Doesn't that make more sense?"
The board officials also discussed budget items Thursday and were told the district will save $78,000 because a large bus purchase was determined to be unnecessary.
The board will meet again Jan. 10 to further discuss the 2013-14 budget, and the officials know they still have a long way to go.
"I don't know what you're going to cut out of here that's not going to hurt something," Conte said.
Board member Susanne Sammons added: "It's almost as if we're down to nothing."
John Borgolini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.