The Fort Edward and South Glens Falls school boards are holding the first joint meeting on Wednesday to hear a presentation from their merger study consultant about how the process will work.
Castallo & Silky is examining the costs and benefits of South Glens Falls annexing the Fort Edward district. The consultant has begun collecting information from both districts.
South Glens Falls Superintendent Kristine Orr said the meeting is the first opportunity for both boards to get together since it agreed to do the study.
The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and can be accessed online on Fort Edward’s website at www.fortedward.org by clicking on “Virtual Meeting Information” and scrolling down to Sept. 30. People can also join through the telephone by calling 1-415-655-0001 and putting in the PIN 172 373 3060.
Fort Edward Superintendent Dan Ward said Alan Pole and Deb Ayers, of Castallo & Silky, will outline the process.
Orr said they have met with her and Ward to inform them about what information they will be collecting from both districts.
Some of that information includes enrollment projections, current academic and extracurricular programs, facilities and transportation services, staffing and all contracts and how much debt each district has. They also will be reviewing the state report cards.
“We want to get the right data and whether or not that shows we should or shouldn’t merge,” she said.
District officials also have instructed the consultants to consider using Fort Edward’s building as an elementary school, according to Orr.
While the consultants collect that information, Orr said a committee consisting of representatives from each school will be meeting starting in November and continuing through April to provide their input into the process.
The committee will consist of 26 members including four teachers, two staff members, one administrator and six community members from each district, according to Ward.
Ward said more community members are needed for the group. People who sign up need to commit to attending all of the meetings.
Orr said school officials are still trying to figure out how to set up the meetings to comply with social distancing guidelines. She said they may record them and post them later.
The goal is for Castallo & Silky to present the report to both boards of education in May. Then, each board would vote in June whether the district wants to move forward with an annexation. Then, the question must be put before voters.
Orr said school officials are targeting perhaps a vote in the fall of 2021
“We want to ensure that it’s good for both communities before moving on in the process,” she said.
Both districts have put together a newsletter for parents and a website. The website can be accessed at sites.google.com/sgfcsd.org/fesgfmerger/home
Fort Edward has fiscal challenges. It is operating under a contingency budget because voters in July rejected its second proposed budget.
Still, Ward said people are very passionate about Fort Edward remaining its own district.
“But we have to look at all alternatives, so we can provide a quality education for the kids going forward,” he said. “With the financial situation we’re currently facing, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to provide the type of education that we want the children of Fort Edward to have.”