District unification can save $$, but comes at a price, school officials say | TheUnion.com

District unification can save $$, but comes at a price, school officials say

As deepening deficits force layoffs and at least one school closure in the area so far, administrators are looking for ways to stretch their educational dollars.

More than 40 western county educators turned out Thursday night for a workshop on state guidelines for combining school districts, which was hosted by the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Office.

Some of the county’s 10 public school districts have expressed interest in consolidating services, Nevada County Superintendent Holly Hermansen said.

In a 2009 study done by her office, consolidating districts wouldn’t necessarily result in a fiscal savings unless the combining districts also agreed to close school campuses.

“It is something people are going to talk about whenever we’re faced with cuts like this,” Hermansen said. “But combining districts doesn’t always save you money.”

Hermansen is seeking election for the superintendent post, to which she was appointed after her predecessor Terence McAteer resigned to take a job in Southern California.

A representative from the state’s office of education, Larry Shirey, said Thursday school districts can choose to combine for both fiscal and educational reasons. Districts can save money by unifying and maximizing the amount of federal and state dollars they are eligible for. But unifications can be a long and tedious process and almost always would need to be voted on by the general public. A unification that closes schools, Shirey said, isn’t always popular.

“Especially in these small communities where a school also serves as a community center,” Shirey said.

Some local districts already combine some services: Grass Valley Union School District serves as the lunch kitchen for all of the western county elementary and middle schools. Ready Springs and Pleasant Valley districts share a superintendent.

To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail kmagin@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4239.

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