Schools may merge

It started with a light dinner and brief introduction. It wasn't long before it was down to business.

On Thursday, Nov. 16, a 26-member committee met to discuss the feasibility of a merger between North Colonie Central School District and Maplewood-Colonie Common School Districts. It was the first of five meetings.

The committee is made up of representatives of each district, including teachers, senior citizens, school staff, community members and a student from each school. The districts' superintendents serve as ex officio members.

When you look at the achievements (of both districts) and the possibilities, it's from that standpoint that we look to the future, said Jerry Steele, Maplewood principal, superintendent and business manager.

The districts split the cost to take on three outside consultants to facilitate the feasibility study. They asked that throughout the four meetings, committee members keep one question in mind at all times: "Would instructional opportunity be enhanced for all students at a similar or reduced cost to taxpayers by combining the two districts?"

Maplewood, a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school established in the late 1800s, is the last remaining common school in Colonie. For 10 years, Maplewood has contemplated the merger with North Colonie and met with its district officials to discuss options. Over the summer, district officials met once again and decided that the merger should be thoroughly investigated and put before voters of both districts.

Maplewood has attempted mergers before in the face of increasing costs.

In 1980, Maplewood conducted a feasibility study looking into a merger with Watervliet and Green Island schools. Voters turned it down.

For the past three years, Maplewood has passed double-digit tax-rate increases. Last year's tax rate increased by 22 percent; nearly triple the 7.78 percent rate increase in North Colonie.

Although North Colonie and Maplewood both share high student performance records, they are very different from one another. Maplewood is a community driven and backed district that many residents have said should remain a small community school. The district is nestled between the cities of Watervliet and Cohoes.

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