Upper Dauphin Area, Millersburg Area School District considering potential merger

DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. --- Two school district within a roughly thirteen-mile radius of each other are considering becoming one.

On Monday, the Upper Dauphin County Area School Board and Millersburg Area School Board agreed to explore a feasibility study to see if a merger is possible.

The districts appointed Pennsylvania Economy League, LLC. to conduct the merger feasibility study at a total cost not to exceed $80,000.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education granted Millersburg Area School District $50,000 for the sole purpose of funds toward paying for the merger study.

Officials point to a declining enrollment for both districts since the 1990s, with a current combined student population of nearly 2,000.

Potential benefits for district members put forward by school officials include creating new community centers, merging away from less cost efficient small school, and increasing the overall tax base to reduce the burden on the current taxpayers in the separate districts.

Question remain from school officials about a merger, such as which current buildings will operate? Aligning curricula and onetime costs like potential renovations or athletic or band uniforms.

The handful of people FOX43 spoke with Wednesday believe it's a good idea.

Kyle Bower, of Millersburg, said he would take classes at Upper Dauphin Area High School that were not available when he attended Halifax.

He believes pooling resources with Upper Dauphin Area School District will present more educational opportunities.

“The VO-AG (Vocational-Agriculture) and building trades, stuff like that. Gives you better opportunities on what you want to do when you got out of school, like do you want to be a builder? A carpenter? Or do you want to be a welder? Take up more in the agricultural field, be a farmer or something like that," said Bower.

Edwin Jury, of Millersburg, agreed, adding a merger could bring more advanced placement courses to the area through Penn State Harrisburg or Harrisburg Area Community College.

Liz Weaver, of Millersburg, said she thinks the merger will help build on the athletics programs and allow more students to participate.

Concerns include the costs associated with the plan, how the current school buildings will be used, and overcrowding.

Weaver's one concern was class size increases.

“Twenty kids is plenty but if you go more than that, to me, the teacher would be struggling...teaching more students," said Weaver.

Jury said his one question involved bus routes, schedules and transportation.

He is wondering where exactly the students will be going?

“How long is it going to take to bus the kids to Upper Dauphin or from Upper Dauphin to Millersburg?" said Jury.

The school districts say in a joint press release that they will keep stakeholders updated throughout the process.

They add the anticipated completion of the first part of the merger feasibility study is early fall of this year.

Proposed merger information can be found on the Upper Dauphin Area School District website, including Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

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