7 News Special Report: Better Together?

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It could be the answer to north country school district's problems - regional schools.

It's a concept being debated in St. Lawrence County as well as a concept that's about to become reality in another region.

Ilion and Mohawk Valley schools are in the process of combining to form Central Valley.

The new district will officially open its doors in September.

Without merging with Mohawk Valley, Ilion was looking at major cuts - possibly as much as 20 percent of its staff.

"This is really going to help kind of put a cork in the leak and help us add a little bit to the program and stop reducing and carry us over for the next 20 years or so," said Cosimo Tangorra, superintendent of the Central Valley School District.

So could a Central Valley type of arrangement work in the north country?

It's a concept being debated by school districts in St. Lawrence County.

But making it reality will take work.

"Legally there is no way on the current set of regulations that exist for districts to do this," said Jay Boak, Jefferson-Lewis BOCES superintendent.

That means nothing can happen without petitions and a vote by residents.

And what about geography?

Ilion and Mohawk are separated by two miles.

Not so with wide-ranging districts in the north country.

But officials say long bus rides are already a way of life for some students.

"We're sending over 40 percent of our juniors and seniors everyday to one of our career and technical centers. So we're already regionally educating students," said Thomas Burns, St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES superintendent.

There is another added benefit to combining schools - no costly construction.

"There wouldn't be the expense of building new buildings and things like that, if let's say, two, three, or more districts came together and used a centrally located high school," said Boak.

That's similar to what's going on at the now Central Valley, where two schools are sharing buildings and benefiting.

"This allows us to spend an adequate amount of money to provide the opportunities that the students deserve," said Tangorra.

7 News reporter Matt McClusky explores the idea of regional schools coming to the north country in Part 2 of his series, "Better Together?"

You can see it tonight on 7 News at 6.

See Part 1

Friday, July 25, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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