After years of studies, a failed four district merger and passing a straw vote, the Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk school districts are a week away from their final vote to form one unified district. Our Andrew Sorensen tells us how this last week may be the toughest test the plan has faced yet.
HERKIMER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Next Thursday, years of studies, meetings and votes in the Herkimer, Mohawk and Ilion school districts with either yield a three district merger or those efforts will disappear.
Voters will be asked three questions. First, if the districts should merge and then what the new school board will look like and how long their terms should be.
Mark Vivacqua, the BOCES Superintendent in charge of the election, says just about everything after the vote will likely be based on a 66 page study.
"The study provides a road map for what this could look like, but any decisions that are made, are made by the new board of education," he explained.
District officials have said the merger would alleviate financial constraints and add significantly more academic and extracurricular programs. Peoples' opinions on the merger are just about everywhere, some bigger than others, as people have painted the sides of their houses, or made large make-shift signs in their yards.
"People usually wait until the end to really start to get excited things and we're seeing that now. People are very excited on both sides," Vivacqua said.
One of the chief concerns is a potential loss of identity because kids who are Ilion Bombers or Herkimer Magicians wouldn't get to keep those identities.
Hundreds on a Facebook group against the merger feel the loss of community may drive people away. Other concerns are the lack of options that were discussed and that the bigger school may provide fewer opportunities.
"You're going to have one team of every sort," former Ilion administrator Grace Osborne said. "You may have more teams, but every parent shutting their eyes and seeing their kid as being the one that makes it, well for every parent shutting their eyes and seeing their kid make it, is a lot of kids not making it."
Osborne and two other community members have filed a petition with the state education commissioner to put the vote on hold. The claim is that the community didn't receive enough information on what the combined district would look like.
However, Vivacqua says that's because many of those decisions would be up to the new board of education.
If the vote does occur, Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk residents will be able to vote from noon until 8 p.m. next Thursday.