The Berks-Mont News (

Antietam and Exeter school board presidents answer public's questions on district merger

By Emily Thiel, News

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

In their efforts to remain transparent and open about the merger possibility of the Antietam and Exeter school districts, school board presidents Robert Quinter, of Exeter, and David Stauffer, of Antietam, met at the Reformation Lutheran Church to answer questions from the public June 10.
Residents from both districts filled the room to ask the board presidents what will happen to their taxes, how would a merger save money and what are the hurdles ahead?
Stauffer stated that the topic of a merger was brought to the Antietam board from the community. “The time may be right to consider it again,” he said.
Both districts came together to fund a feasibility study, which concluded in April, that showed four different options for the districts; remaining at status quo, sharing services, adopting a regional school model or a full district merger.
The topic of a merger is nothing new to the community, as a merge was one vote from passing back in the 1970s. Arlene Unger, of Exeter, is in favor of a full district merger to provide more opportunities for the children. “We went through this in the 70s,” she said, “If they would have merged then we would have been done with it.”
“There would be more education opportunities and a greater number of advance placement classes,” said Stauffer.
“From a historical standpoint have always been a community,” Bob Miller, of Exeter, said. Miller said he opted to travel for work to specifically not pull his children from the Exeter School District. “I think it’s the way to go educationally,” Miller said.
Unger noted that forum discussions are premature because the boards have yet to make a final decision.
“My plan was always to leave Antietam to go to Exeter because of the opportunities Exeter offered me when I graduated,” Julie Cox, of Lower Alsace, stated in the forum. “Even if my taxes don’t go down... if my girls have more education opportunity, that’s what I’m looking for.” As addressed in the study, if a merger would occur, the districts would adopt a unified millage rate.
Quinter explained that if the merger would take place today, Exeter would have to raise their tax rate half a mill to even out the costs.
If the districts would decide to merge, Quinter expects at minimum, a two to three year time line for the merger.
For Exeter, the addition of the three buildings in the Antietam district is an enticing selling point. Quinter stated the Exeter junior high school has maxed out their expansion, and if the high school were to grow anymore, it would be on the baseball field. “By using Antietam facilities, we could relieve that stress in the long run,” said Quinter.
“We don’t max out our buildings,” said Stauffer, “Our student population is around 1,100.” The Exeter School District is around four times as large as Antietam’s student population, and has seven buildings.
Both board presidents stressed that no decision has been made; the boards are looking to set a date to meet to discuss the issue sometime in June.