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Western Indiana school districts plan no-closure merger

ROCKVILLE, Ind. – Two small school districts in western Indiana are working to carry out a merger plan after it won approval from voters in this month’s election.

Leaders of the Rockville and Turkey Run districts in Parke County began discussing a possible merger more than a year ago in response to enrollment declines and reductions in state grants to small school districts.

No schools will be closed in the consolidation that is to take effect Jan. 1, so the new 1,300-student district will have two junior-senior high schools and two elementary schools, The Tribune-Star reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/W9RJtk).

Turkey Run superintendent Tom Rohr said the major differences people will see in January with the new North Central Parke Community School Corp. will be a single seven-member board, one superintendent and one administrative business office.

Rohr said he didn’t anticipate any layoffs among the staff.

“We’ll be able to basically move people around to accomplish everything that needs to be done,” he said. “We’ve been planning this for a long time” and cautious about hiring new employees.

Legislators last year intentionally eliminated extra grants to the smallest of Indiana’s nearly 300 school districts to financially push such mergers. The 130-student New Harmony district in southwestern Indiana merged this summer with the neighboring North Posey district.

The Rockville and Turkey Run school districts have both seen their enrollments drop more than 20 percent over the past decade in the area about 25 miles northeast of Terre Haute.

Nearly 79 percent of Rockville’s voters and 59 percent in the Turkey Run district supported the merger.

Rohr, who has been filling in as the Rockville district’s superintendent for several months, said the consolidated district could make better use of the teaching staff. For example, instead of each district having a part-time teacher for a subject, the merged district could have one full-time teacher who travels between schools.

“There will be a lot of efficiencies by putting everything together,” Rohr said.

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