OBSERVER Staff Report
The possibility of creating a regional high school in Chautauqua County is one step closer.
State Sen. Cathy Young announced regional high school legislation, which she is sponsoring, has sailed through the State Senate.
"Students in rural areas would gain enhanced academic, sports and enrichment opportunities that they don't have now. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle realize that our kids deserve to have these improvements," Young said.
Negotiations are progressing between the state Assembly, Governor, and the Senate, she said, adding that "Assemblyman Andrew Goodell has been extraordinarily supportive."
"We are pushing for a final agreement before the end of session on June 21. Regional high schools would be an innovative option for districts to explore," she said.
"As student enrollments continue to drop, it is becoming harder to offer the level of education our kids need and deserve. This concept is a creative solution that has been embraced by many groups, including the state Board of Regents," Young said.
"Schools will be able to offer many more advanced placement courses and extracurricular clubs and activities now. Regional high schools also will increase our students' abilities to compete and succeed on a higher level," she added.
Comprehensive plans for finances, staffing, special education, curriculum, building use, enrollment, cost savings, transportation, athletics and other extracurricular activities would be required in the regional high school contract. The contract must indicate that the regional high school is responsible for each student's academic achievement, as well as awarding diplomas upon graduation, Young said.
Before districts are given the authority to enter into a contract for a regional high school, they must host a public hearing and hold public vote. Contracts would then be subject to final approval by the state education commissioner, she noted.
"Input from our parents and educators has been key to establishing the governance structure of this bill. Our goal has been not to create additional layers of authority or control, but to enhance academic programs within our already-existing school systems," she said.
Last month, Young joined Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan at Jamestown Community College for a roundtable discussion on regional high schools. Students, parents and school officials from the Ripley, Brocton, Chautauqua Lake, and Westfield districts participated in the event.
"Students were among those individuals making the strongest case for a regional high school. They want expanded courses, sports and other extra-curricular offerings," she said.
The establishment of a regional high school model was recommended in 2008 through a Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness Study led by former Lt. Governor Stan Lundine.