ATHENS — Athens School Board President John Johnson discussed the status of the merger discussions between the Athens and Sayre school districts following Tuesday’s board meeting.

The two school districts voted in the fall of 2018 to begin talks on a potential merger — whether it was combining resources or completely merging the two school districts.

Johnson told the Morning Times on Tuesday that the discussions have been put on hold.

“As of right now, there is nothing officially going on (with the) merger talks,” Johnson said. “We left it that we would be neighborly and help out where we could and share little things here and there.”

One thing that came out of those discussions was the sharing of a Pennsylvania Information Management Systems Coordinator (PIMS), according to Johnson.

“We are currently sharing a PIMS coordinator. That is the student information management system. Sayre’s (PIMS coordinator) retired and (they) wanted to know if we could share and we worked out an agreement,” Johnson said.

Johnson noted that the two school districts decided against hiring a firm to do a professional study on whether it would make sense to merge the districts.

“We figured we would look into it and at least talk about it and see where everybody stood. It came down to that it was going to cost a fair amount of money to do a professional evaluation and study. Neither of us was willing to cough up the money to do that,” Johnson said.

If the conversation had progressed, Johnson believes one of the next steps would be to loop in the public and gain their input.

“That was part of the discussion — that there needed to be a lot more education. It’s not a 100 percent given that there would be savings. There’s a lot of things that needed to come into play and part of that discussion was that need to educate the public on a bunch of these things,” he said. “If we went farther down the road, we had discussed that we might have public question-and-answer periods to answer these questions, but we just never got that far.”

While no discussions are currently taking place, Johnson noted that the two districts maintain a strong relationship with open lines of communication.

“Nothing else is scheduled, but (Athens Superintendent) Craig (Stage) has great communication with (Sayre Superintendent Dr.) Jill (Daloisio) and I know (Sayre School Board President) Pete (Quattrini) on a personal level so we communicate all the time. If it ever comes back up again, the (line of) communication is open,” Johnson said.

Editor's Note: This is a SOUNDOFF STORY which is a new feature where the Morning Times will look to answer questions from the public that are relayed to us through Soundoff, which runs every Tuesday on the opinion page (A4). To contact Soundoff, you can call 570-888-4562 and leave your statement on the voicemail or email soundoff@morning-times.com.

Pat McDonald can be reached at (570) 888-9643 ext. 228 or editor@morning-times.com. Follow Managing Editor Pat McDonald on Twitter @PatMcDonaldMT.

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