Clymer, Panama Merger Plan Reviewed By School Boards

Residents gathered Tuesday to hear the results of a study that looked into the possible merger of Clymer and Panama schools. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

CLYMER — A proposed consolidation of Clymer and Panama school districts has the backing of a group tasked with studying its potential cost-saving benefits.

During a meeting inside Clymer Student Performance Center on Tuesday, the merger study team Learning Design Associates announced to the boards of education of Clymer and Panama and members from the community their recommendations for a proposed district consisting of both schools.

The recommendation from Learning Design Associates is to merge the school districts. The recommendation includes using 51 percent of the merger incentive aid from the state to level taxes in a new district; the estimated incentive aid is at $16.4 million.

The recommendation also noted that before a potential merged district begins, Panama school district will have to pay back a loan currently owed to New York state. However, legislation that would forgive the money is awaiting action by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The third major recommendation would be for the new district to merge with another school within five years to restart the state merger incentive aid.

Meanwhile, Learning Design Associates recommended a phased process to address school facilities. For the first phase, the group proposed K-5 remain in both schools; create a middle school for grades sixth through eighth at the Panama facility; and bus secondary school students to the Clymer facility.

In the second phase, the new board would determine how building usage would continue, which includes a potential new facility if another merger would happen within five years.

Dave Kurzawa, Marylin Kurzawa and Tom Schmidt, members from Learning Design Associates, gave a presentation to highlight concerns from a series of focus groups held earlier this year.

The trio walked community members and the joint school boards through the budgets of a potential merged district.

The feasibility study was comprised of a Feasibility Study Committee and focus group sessions, as well as staff interviews at each school.

Meetings will be held on Nov. 7 at the Panama auditorium and on Nov. 9 at the Clymer Student Performance Center for public comments and questions. Both meetings will be held at 7 p.m.

The boards of education will have to approve a referendum, or a straw vote, on or before Friday, Oct. 27. If both boards approve, an official straw vote will be held Nov. 13. If approved then, a new district would have to be planned out and then a statutory referendum vote would be held.

If that vote was in favor of a merged district then the new district would be official.

A full breakdown of Learning Design Associates’ study and recommendation is scheduled to be available on both school websites today.