LAKE PLACID - The Lake Placid and Saranac Lake school boards continue to look for ways to save money by sharing services.
Administrators and board members from both districts met at the Lake Placid district's Administrative Services Center Wednesday evening for a joint work session focused on sharing instructional services and courses. Both districts need to find ways to save money to meet the state's new property tax cap, but sharing the top job of superintendent has been ruled out.
Instead, the districts formed four committees charged with exploring potential savings in four areas: instructional services, food, business, and property and equipment.
Saranac Lake High School Principal Bruce Van Weelden, right, discusses the possibility of sharing courses and teachers during a joint meeting of Lake Placid and Saranac Lake school officials on Wednesday night. Lake Placid school board member Phil Baumbach and Saranac Lake High School Guidance Counselor Christine Bell listen.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Morris)
On Wednesday, Lake Placid school Superintendent Randy Richards provided the joint committee with a list of classes at Lake Placid Middle-High School, including current enrollment figures for each class. The point, he said, was to highlight classes with lower enrollment that could be merged with similar classes at Saranac Lake High School.
In several cases, one district has Advanced Placement classes or other electives with low numbers while the other district has strong numbers.
"The question that needs to be asked is this: Are we contemplating a school universe where students from each of the respective schools attended either school?" Saranac Lake Superintendent Gerald Goldman said. "Are we envisioning something like Lake Placid students went to the guidance office and say, 'Hey, look, I've got three courses I want to take in Saranac Lake.' It's one way of looking at this. Another way is it could be a scenario where one of the two districts says, 'I don't need 100 percent of an English teacher this year: I only need 60, and you could use 40.'"
Saranac Lake school board President Debra Lennon said having students enroll in courses at another district would mean travel expenses, more time commuting and less time in school.
Goldman said having teachers split their time between buildings would be "undoubtedly better for the kids."
"Sharing a teacher, I think, is much easier than sharing students," Lake Placid school board President Mary Dietrich said. "Students are attached to their school. It's part of being a teenager."
The third possibility, Goldman said, is video conferencing and the use of Tandberg Units, or video conferencing systems. Dietrich noted that AP calculus traditionally has a low enrollment at LPMHS. She said if two kids wanted to take it, they might be able to use the Tandberg Unit to join a classroom at SLHS.
Goldman noted that the Saranac Lake school district would have to buy a Tandberg Unit. He said Saranac Lake will look at video conferencing to see how much it would cost and how it would be staffed.
The committee briefly discussed a shared calendar between the two districts. Dietrich said there could be cost savings if the districts aligned professional and staff development days.
Goldman said the Franklin-Essex-Hamilton Board of Cooperative Educational Services wants the both districts to adopt calendars that align with the rest of the region. Saranac Lake and Lake Placid currently have a two-week spring break while other districts have a week off in February and a week off in the spring.
But Lake Placid school board member Phil Baumbach said the two-week spring break is written into the contract for the Lake Placid Education Association. Goldman said the two districts should at least make sure their spring breaks happen at the same time.
"Everything else in (the calendar) is manageable," Goldman said.
Baumbach said if professional development days are scheduled at the same time, the districts could split the costs associated with them.
Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.