Monroe-Woodbury bows out of seeking GWL students to attend its high school

| 15 Feb 2012 | 11:28

    Greenwood Lake's decision will come down to Tuxedo or Warwick Valley CENTRAL VALLEY — Citing the need to focus on developing a 2012-13 school budget requiring approximately $7 million in cuts, the Monroe-Woodbury School District has withdrawn its name for consideration from the Greenwood Lake School District’s review process and eventual selection of where to send its high school students beginning in September 2013. Monroe-Woodbury was one of three districts officially vying to be selected by the Greenwood Lake Board of Education as the district of choice of where to send its 300 high schoolers now that New York State will not allow it to build its own high school. ”We’ve given this a great deal of thought and consideration,” Monroe-Woodbury Superintendent of Schools Edward Mehrhof wrote in an e-mail to The Photo News. “At this time it doesn’t seem feasible for Monroe-Woodbury to take on the additional responsibilities of an additional 300 high school students.” In a later conversation, Mehrhof said the district’s top priority is to develop a budget with less than a one percent spending increase over the current school budget, which equates to an approximate $7 million reduction in expenses. Monroe-Woodbury, like all other districts within New York State, must also adhere to a tax cap of two percent for its budget. That budget process began this past Wednesday evening with the presentation of preliminary budget information during the Monroe-Woodbury Board of Education meeting. Secondly, Mehrhof said in his e-mail, there would be many issues that would potentially affect the educational process for both districts. Bad timing “We spent a great deal of time going over space issues, staffing issues and budget issues under the lens of 300 Greenwood Lake high school students coming to Monroe-Woodbury in September 2013,” he wrote. “It would be difficult absorbing these students into the district at this time.” Mehrhof said the high school census has been fairly consistent over the past few years. It’s the current elementary school level census which is currently seeing a decline. While officials initially acknowledged that having Greenwood Lake students attend the high school could be a good revenue producing opportunity for the district, they now say after additional review, the current timing is not right. “A year is not a lot of time to plan with so many students to absorb,” Mehrhof later said. “Greenwood Lake is moving very fast on this, and I understand they need to do that. With all our other priorities, we don’t have that amount of time available to explore all the variables we have to.” Negotiating tuition The third component in the mix would be to have the selected district negotiate a contract with Greenwood Lake, which is requiring the selected district to negotiate a tuition rate which falls below the Seneca Falls formula, as Tuxedo has done, Mehrhof added. He was not certain that could ever be possible. Greenwood Lake is in the fourth year of a five-year contract with the Tuxedo School District and is undertaking its due diligence in preparation for the contract’s conclusion at the end of the 2012-13 school year. Greenwood Lake students have attended George F. Baker High School since 1981. Prior to that, students attended Monroe-Woodbury High School in Central Valley until Monroe-Woodbury officials advised Greenwood Lake they could no longer take those student due to Monroe-Woodbury’s student census increase. Tuxedo and Warwick Valley school district officials gave presentations to the Greenwood Lake Board of Education and interested community members the week of Jan. 17 where each addressed the merits of their high schools. Tuxedo addressed the benefits of a small school environment while Warwick Valley spoke of the pluses of a mid-sized high school. Greenwood Lake officials have said they expect a decision to be made in time to bring their choice before voters prior to the end of this current school year. The remaining players Tuxedo School District The incumbent Tuxedo School District wants to retain the almost 30-year relationship it has with the Greenwood Lake School District and keep Greenwood Lake students attending George F. Baker High School. Officials have indicated their willingness to find merger and consolidation opportunities in a fiscally prudent way. Enrollment: 380 students with 300 coming from Greenwood Lake The Warwick Valley School District Warwick voters rejected having Greenwood Lake students attend the Warwick high school almost five years ago, but officials are eager to heal the sour feelings caused by that vote. Their pitch includes keeping Greenwood Lake students local by attending high school in Warwick. They also indicated that having Greenwood Lake students attend Warwick could be a good revenue opportunity. Enrollment: Approximately 1,400 students