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North Star and Shade forming broader partnership

November 17, 2018

The North Star and Shade-Central City school districts are considering new partnerships — and studying the possibility of merging in the future.

North Star officials said at a school board meeting Tuesday that there was a meeting with Shade officials to expand both districts’ sports cooperative programs. Officials also spoke about conducting a state feasibility study for a potential merger of the school districts in the future.

North Star Superintendent Louis Lepley said everything is preliminary, with the main focus in the short term being the co-ops.

“It was really just a sit-down,” he said. We “had some very open dialogue with what the two schools could do to benefit our students and our communities.” Officials added that there was no discussion about what a merger would look like for both districts, only an interest to get more information about potential partnerships.

Lepley said most of the meeting was focused on co-ops involving the two districts.

“I think both sides are interested because it could be a benefit to both communities and, more importantly, our students with our declining student population in Somerset County,” he said.

Shade has 404 students, while North Star has 1,094 students. In the past eight years, Shade’s enrollment has declined by 125 students, and North Star’s by 70.

Shade Superintendent John Krupper said a merger is not something the school is ruling out, and the issue has been discussed with the Shade school board.

“I think it’s something all schools need to look at because of declining enrollment,” he said. “There isn’t a school district in IU8 that hasn’t lost kids in the last 15 years.”

Both districts have co-op programs for sports such as track and field and wrestling. Shade’s girls relay team placed eighth at states with help from North Star athletes. The districts are looking to expand the co-ops with programs like football and baseball.

Krupper said he’d also want to look into expanding academic co-op programs for advanced placement classes.

“Anything is possible, but you’d have to have the schedules work out,” he said.

Both superintendents have called state officials to ask about funding for a feasibility study. Lepley said there might be state funds to pay for such a study, according to state officials he spoke to about the matter.

In 2010 the Pennsylvania Department of Education conducted a study that suggested Windber and Shade would benefit both financially and educationally by consolidating school districts. The department’s communications office did not return multiple phone calls Friday from the Daily American.

Lepley said there is still talk about state legislators considering some form of school consolidation, and somewhere down the line school districts might be forced to consolidate.

“We just kind of want to get ahead of the game, explore all opportunities, talk about if we are serious about this (and) where do we go next,” he said. “But it’s all preliminary fact-finding at this point.”

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