Decreasing enrollment prompts North Fork school districts to expand shared services agreement

Decreasing enrollment has prompted renewed discussions about expanding an existing shared services program for academics and athletics between Mattituck-Cutchogue, Southold and Greenport school districts.

The discussions between the superintendents of the three school districts began in early January and will continue to be held “on a fairly regular basis,” said Southold Superintendent Anthony Mauro. “We’re looking to try to get the best benefit out of what we all do by working with and sharing with each other,” Mr. Mauro said.

The conversation was prompted specifically by decreasing enrollment in Mattituck-Cutchogue and Southold, according to Mattituck-Cuthchogue Schools Superintendent Shawn Petretti. News of the renewed discussions was announced at the Jan. 19 Mattituck-Cutchogue Board of Education meeting.

“We want to keep promoting robust programs for our students but as our numbers continue to decline it’s going to become more and more difficult,” Mr. Petretti said. “So we just see that there’s going to be an increase in shared services and in combined programs.” 

Sports in which a single local high school team is comprised of students from two or from all three school districts include wrestling, winter track, bowling, varsity and junior varsity girls’ soccer, boys’ golf. The three districts have also historically shared a single Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program, which help prepare interested students for service in the U.S. Armed Forces. 

“You’re talking about three school districts that take a lot of pride in their history and in their traditions so when you start talking about things like our shared athletic programs, these are sensitive conversations that will certainly take some time and will require input from stakeholders,” he said.

In terms of academics, Southold houses robotics which Greenport students participate in. Mr. Mauro said that they are also looking at various academic programs that used to exist between the three districts.

For now, the three school districts will share a satellite BOCES carpentry program that will be held at Mattituck-Cutchogue for the 2023-2024 school year.  Student participation is vital to keep the program going, Mr. Petretti said.

“Carpentry is something that is not offered in Riverhead, it’s offered in Bellport, geographically, it’s too far for our students,” he said. “So that with the renovation to the STEM wing made that ideal choice to pilot and see where we go with that, hopefully that’s the start of more collaboration with some of our academic programs.”

He hopes the program is successful so there is more opportunity to open other BOCES technical programs targeting needed services on the North Fork so students can “walk right out of our schools and right into the work force supporting the local economy,” Mr. Petretti said.

Since the districts are in early stages of discussion, they still have many details to solidify.

“We talked about aligning bell schedules for academic and athletic programs so that we can maybe share programs both academic and athletic with ease,” Mr. Petretti said.

Shared transportation was also discussed, as was shared billing practices, equipment and personnel, he said.

“One of our action items is to set up a meeting with Sunrise [Bus company] and talk about how we can align transportation, allowing us the flexibility to align some of our academic programs.”

Mr. Petretti hopes to eventually hold a public meeting that includes representation from all three districts to lay out the details of the plan for the public, but said discussions are still in early stages.

 “Some things we could maybe take action on in the immediate, but some of these are much larger conversations,” he said.

Mr. Mauro said he hopes to implement parts of the expanded shared services plan “as early as next year.”

“When will everything be fully implemented? I don’t think there’s ever a date for that. I think every year you’re looking at it. And you’re trying to decide what’s best for all your communities, and then you’re moving forward,” he said.