RIPLEY - As Ripley Central School and Westfield Academy and Central School delve further into their merger feasibility study, the committee has determined that the prospect of the Ripley school building eventually closing is still a real possibility even after the districts merge.
"If the Ripley school were to close that would be at the discretion of the newly formed Board of Education of the merged district," explained Daniel Porter, merger consultant.
Feasibility study committee member Carolyn Torrance of Ripley brought the matter before the committee and consultants at the most recent meeting.
"If we do as we have discussed and keep elementary students living in Ripley at their home school and the middle school students there and the enrollment continues to decline at the rate it is, we will still have a problem," Torrance said. "There are only 120 students in our elementary school now. In a few years, that number will be under 100.
"With a building in the middle of very expensive renovations and the high cost of construction due to the rise of oil prices, wouldn't it be better to look now at closing the school if we're just going to have to do it later?"
Torrance presented the committee with the example of Clymer and Findley Lake, where the smaller school building was closed and then used as town offices and recreation centers for the community.
"I spoke with our Town Supervisor Pete Ryan and he said they would be happy to use the building since they are short on space," Torrance added.
Torrance also suggested that JCC could offer specialized courses within the building.
"It is not me that you have to convince," Porter answered. "It would be a hard sell to the people of Ripley to send all their children to Westfield. The disposal of the school building would also be up to the new board, the town of Ripley would have no rights to it."
The consultants advised the committee to concentrate on the merger before them now and to make these decisions at a later date.
"I am just worried that we are doing a temporary fix instead of a long-term solution," Torrance said. "If down the road we are just going to have to merge again with another district, Chautauqua Lake school already has room for Ripley, Westfield and Brocton students."