RIPLEY - Ripley Central School Board of Education President Robert Bentley urged residents on both sides of the tuitioning issue to "take down the signs" at Thursday evening's regular meeting on Feb. 21.
Ripley residents narrowly approved a plan to tuition students in grades seven through 12 to Chautauqua Lake Central School next school year. The proposal engendered a lively debate for months, culminating in a public vote of 282 votes for tuitioning and 262 against.
"It took 20 years to make the change," Bentley said, after reviewing several attempts at mergers and consolidations that have occurred during the past two decades. "Every single time we voted, it tore the community apart. It's time to take the yes signs down and take the no signs down. It's time to move on."
Bentley expressed confidence Ripley students will do well both in academics and extra-curricular activities. He called the plan to tuition students a "great opportunity for our children," but noted there is still a lot of work to be done before it becomes a reality. Most notably, the two schools still have to agree on a tuition cost for each student.
Four of the six students who took part in a pilot program at CLCS this year were on hand to speak about their experiences. Amber McKenery, Tanner McCutcheon, Tessa Mosier and Kira Mellors each spoke of what they felt was the best experience so far of the year.
In response to concerns about the elementary school, Ripley Principal Lauren Ormsby said there were a lot of ideas to use resources freed up by the tuitioning program to improve the educational experience of the lower grades.
"We have a thousand ideas," she said. "As far as putting them into place, as soon as they are decided upon, we are ready to go."
Superintendent Karen Krause echoed Ormsby's words, noting, "always, the desire is to keep the elementary school here."
In other business, the board passed a waiver of conflict in order to share the Hodgson Russ LLP law firm with CLCS when negotiation the terms of the tuitioning contract. Bentley said both schools could save money this way.