It must be getting serious in Ripley. The smallest of the 18 county school districts - about 320 students - is continuing to explore the option of tuitioning students in grades seven to 12 to Chautauqua Lake Central.
Obviously, this is an emotional issue for students, school board members and teachers. How else do you provide some 170 students with improved educational access? When it comes to Ripley, it is almost to a point when it is no longer a "bare bones" educational curriculum. It is almost bare.
But traditions are hard habits to break, and that is when it becomes personal.
"We have poured our heart and our soul into every one of our students and we are told that we are not giving the students a good education," one teacher said at a recent school board meeting. "This is very hurtful."
It may be "hurtful," but it also is reality.
School educators, it must be noted, are not the problem when it comes to the lack of opportunities being offered in the district. When only 320 students attend a district that costs more than $8.5 million for a dwindling number of taxpayers to maintain, there is going to be a shortage of extracurricular activities and educational programming when compared to almost any other district.
But teachers are a part of the problem when you look at total compensation costs. As the district has shrunk, educator salaries and benefits in the district with one of the highest free and reduced lunch programs - 65 percent - have continued to climb.
Upping taxes annually in a town where there is no true economic engine will not bring prosperity, thus the low enrollment figure and high number participating in lunch programs.
Ripley has a strong history of wrestling and girls basketball programs. But it does not pack a punch when it comes to academic offerings.
Merging, for now, is not an option. A tuitioning plan will soon be on the table for district voters.
It needs to move forward. If not for the students of today, then definitely for the decreased number of students in the future.