The economic challenges the districts are facing make action urgent, Jennings said. There have always been educational reasons — it would provide more efficiencies and offerings, he said. In this fiscal crisis, there is nowhere else to go to avoid cutting programs students deserve, such as arts, athletics, advanced placement classes and smaller class sizes in elementary school, Jennings said.
They are all in danger in the current climate, he said.
The situation is different than when merger has been suggested in the the past, he said. There have been so many articles about the fiscal crisis, “I don’t think this comes as a surprise to anyone,” Jennings said.
He said the big questions include: Are the districts a good fit for each other? What is the long-term effect on education, finances and the community?
“It is important there is community support,” Jennings said.
While the current economy, including the lack of state aid, might be the “trigger,” Diamond said, the educational advantages the merger could provide for the students are the biggest reason to consider it.
“That should always be the bottom line,” he said. “It would provide an academic program that is stronger and deeper than we can currently provide.”
It has come up before — the last time in the ’90s, he said. He said he wasn’t in the district then, but in general people object to the idea of losing the community school. With the state cutting funding for the last three years, Diamond said, the community can no longer support the necessary programs under the current situation.
“We’ve been cutting both instructional and non-instructional positions,” he said, and “we believe we are offering the academic program we need. To offer anything less would be unacceptable.”