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Oysterponds mulling secondary student contract with Shelter Island

Could Oysterponds students soon have the option of attending junior and senior high school on Shelter Island?

Oysterponds Superintendent Richard Malone and Shelter Island Board of Education president Tom Graffagnino confirmed this week that a “fact-finding” effort is underway between the districts to explore that possibility. Currently, the district’s students transfer to Greenport after completing preschool through sixth-grade classes in Orient.

But both school officials cautioned that the talks are only preliminary.

“There are a lot of hurdles to come,” Mr. Graffagnino said.

Mr. Malone said the districts want to be transparent about the issue, which has come up at Oysterponds in the past. The district previously considered offering secondary school students the chance to attend schools other than Greenport, even forming a committee to study the feasibility of such a proposal.

In 2012, the Board of Education voted to allow graduating Oysterponds students to attend either Mattituck or Greenport, but contract talks over the tuition rates Oysterponds would pay Mattituck eventually broke off.

That was the second time Oysterponds and Mattituck had attempted to negotiate a contract. Talks also stalled in 2009 over transportation costs, district officials said at the time.

Mr. Malone declined to speculate as to why parents would want to send their students to a secondary school other than Greenport.

“There’s a loyalty and a tradition to Greenport,” he said.

The superintendent said one concern about offering parents a choice of secondary schools for their children is the chance that siblings might be split up to attend different schools, which he said he wouldn’t want to see.

Oysterponds currently has 88 secondary students attending school in Greenport, Mr. Malone said. The district’s elementary enrollment is 93 students.

The exploration with Shelter Island is in its infancy and is simply a way to determine cooperative ways for area schools to share resources and provide opportunities for students, Mr. Malone said.

Shelter Island Board of Education vice president Linda Eklund said she thinks there are some programs between the schools that would marry well, and complimented Oysterponds on its music program as an example.

But she added that there are “a lot of stumbling blocks” before any plan could move forward. Mr. Malone said those issues include determining what each school has to offer the other; what costs would be involved in terms of tuition and travel; and contracts that would have to be negotiated.

Mr. Malone said a deal could not be in place before the next school year.

Greenport-Southold Superintendent David Gamberg was in Washington, D.C., this week and couldn’t be reached for comment before presstime.

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