RIPLEY, NY (WKBW) - Decreased school enrollment and state aid along with a rise in costs and a property tax cap has the Ripley School District faces serious cuts next year.
The district has just 285 students in grades K through 12. That is a drop of 100 students in just the past six years. School Board officials say they face nearly half-a-million dollars in cuts to programs, including about one-third of the teaching staff.
"We will be going down to one teacher in all core subjects, [grades] seven through twelve. We will go down to a bare-bones program," said school board president Bob Bentley.
Now the school board is proposing sending students in grades 7-12 to Chautauqua Lake Central School. It's a move that they say will offer students greater opportunity and better education.
"There's 40 classes more than Ripley. They offer A-P classes which we cannot offer," says Bentley.
The idea has been tossed around for the last 20-years in Ripley, with several attempts to merge with neighboring districts shot down.
Chautauqua Lake held an open-house for residents and parents, and those who attended said the choice now was clear.
"If it doesn't pass, I feel out of necessity to give my kids the best education, I have to look at tuitioning or moving. I mean, this school is failing the kids," said Allen Mellors, a father of two who supports the plan.
"It's unfair to the children to not be offered an education. I mean if they're going to go off to college they're probably not getting all the courses they need here," added Eleanor Hoffman, a Ripley resident and grandmother.
Others say this plan is not the answer and want to see the Ripley school remain.
"I don't think tuitioning is the answer, the children don't want it. They want to stay here in the school. There might be 6 or 10 children that want it," says Wanda Bentley.
A number of other small districts in the area are suffering similar enrollment and funding problems. Many have already merged services, including athletic programs.
It's these struggles that have led to a recent effort to pass legislation to allow for the creation of regional schools. A move that would eliminate the smaller districts and merge in to one central school.
A similar bill passed the State Senate in 2011 but was never brought to a vote in the Assembly.