Mt. Vernon Register-News

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May 28, 2014

No school merger dissenters

INA — No opposition surfaced during a public hearing Monday night at Ina Grade School gym for a petition that would combine the Dodds and Ina grade school districts.

The petition was presented to Regional Superintendent of Schools Ron Daniels for consideration. Daniels said he would be rendering a decision on the petition more than likely by the end of this week. If Daniels and State Education Superintendent Christopher Koch approve the petition, it would go before the voters in both districts in the general consolidated election on Nov. 4.

If the voters approve the referendum as presented, a new Board of Education will be elected in the April 2015 election and the new district could be operational by July 1 of the same year.

David Bowen, chairman of the Committee of Ten, presented testimony at the hearing. Bowen said the districts are experiencing financial difficulties and static or declining enrollments and funding has decreased for the last several years.

"Consolidation would allow us to become a more cohesive unit with a common mission and the mission is about what is best for our kids," Bowen said.

Ina, with 109 students, has individual classes for each grade. Dodds, with 133 students, has had to combine classrooms due to financial constraints, Bowen reported.

"There is a distinct possibility Ina will have to utilize similar strategies in the future if the situation remains the same," he said.

Additionally, when looking at student enhancements, Dodds has already eliminated their library, vocal and instrumental music, art, computer and specialized classes that offered intervention in reading. Ina had to carefully consider for the coming year whether or not the resources were available to continue some of those enriching activities, Bowen added.

"Consolidation will allow for the combining of resources (buses, equipment, and materials) and sharing of personnel that will benefit each of the present schools. Consolidation could ensure additional student growth opportunities in the areas of art, music, theater, technology, media, youth leadership and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). By utilizing some of these opportunities we can help our students gain skills that will help them be successful for life," Bowen said.

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