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The Telegram
  • Some Ilion-Mohawk school parents consider other districts

  • Wendy Chukwuonye isn’t thrilled about the Ilion-Mohawk school district merger.

    She’s so worried about class sizes and transportation that the Ilion mother is considering sending her three children to school elsewhere.

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  • Wendy Chukwuonye isn’t thrilled about the Ilion-Mohawk school district merger.
    She’s so worried about class sizes and transportation that the Ilion mother is considering sending her three children to school elsewhere.
    “My little one has special needs,” she said. “She already kind of gets lost in the shuffle the way that it is.”
    The merger was approved by Ilion and Mohawk voters Feb. 12 after a three-district merger vote with Herkimer failed in October and a four-district merger including Frankfort-Schuyler failed in January 2012.
    Still, not everyone is happy.
    Other area school districts are receiving calls from parents of the new merged district who are trying to determine their options. Enrollment Director James Jones, from Notre Dame in Utica, said he has received numerous inquiries in the last two weeks from parents.
    “They’re definitely seeing us as an option,” he said. “We’re even looking into providing busing for the valley because there’s so much interest.”
    Robert Reina, superintendent of Frankfort-Schuyler Central School District, said he hasn’t received calls from parents but some staff members have.
    “It helps in the sense of maybe adding students to student body,” Reina said.
    Sending students elsewhere
    Private and public schools require applications, and they could deny a student’s enrollment based on factors such as whether they have room. They also require tuition.
    Tuition at Frankfort-Schuyler for out-of-district students is $3,400 per year for kindergarten through fifth grade, and $3,650 for secondary students.
    Data is not available to determine whether enrollment for merged districts rises or declines in the years following the merger. One expert said, however, it could go either way.
    “To me, it’s possible that both sides are right that there are parents who for whatever reason are unhappy and move out of the district,” said Robert Lowry Jr., New York State Council of Superintendents deputy director for advocacy research and communications.
    “There are significant state rewards for districts that consolidate, and those should make it possible for the new merged district to not just preserve offerings that would have been at risk had they continued as separate districts, but can improve on those offerings.”
    The Ilion-Mohawk district will gain $42.2 million in state aid over 14 years.
    This money is crucial as the districts have been paring down over the years due to rising costs, declining enrollments, insufficient aid and a 2 percent property tax cap.
    Chukwuonye – who has a third-grader at Barringer Road Elementary School in Ilion, a junior at Ilion Junior-Senior High School and an eighth-grader that previously was home schooled and now is starting school at Avondale Rise Christian Academy in Utica -- is keeping an open mind. She said she hasn’t received anything from the district yet as to the specifics of the merger, but if she did it might change her decision to move her children.
    Page 2 of 2 - “My concerns at this point are completely about the merger,” she said.
    Lots of work to do
    While some parents consider their choices, the new school district still has a lot to accomplish by fall.
    Information regarding the specifics of the merger still is in the formative stages awaiting the March 27 Board of Education election.
    A transition plan will take effect following the election and will include outreach to students, community members and faculty from both districts.
    After the election the following need to be completed:
    * Hiring a superintendent and developing a budget.
    * Assigning faculty and staff to new locations.
    * Developing sports and curriculum offerings.
    * Moving equipment to the appropriate locations.
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