Cornell School District shows willingness to talk merger with Moon

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Despite some misgivings on the part of Cornell School District officials and some parents, merger talks with Moon Area School District appear headed forward.

Cornell school board President Jeffrey McBain told fellow board members and about 50 parents and other local residents gathered in the school library Monday evening that he is open to merger discussions and he neither supports nor opposes a merger at the moment.

“I do believe we need to move ahead, but cautiously,” Mr. McBain said. “We have limited resources, both administratively and financially, to be invested in meetings and studies — I want the best for the entire district, which includes students, faculty, staff and taxpayers.”

Aaron Thomas, superintendent of Cornell School District, which serves Coraopolis and Neville, will continue discussing the possibility of a merger with Moon Area’s superintendent before the Cornell board takes any formal action, he said. Moon Area school board directors voted July 21 to open merger talks, and Coraopolis council and Neville commissioners separately approved resolutions supporting those talks last month. Moon Area serves Moon and Crescent.

Many members of the audience said they want the board to at least explore the possibility of merging, either with Moon Area or possibly with another district. Joining a better-performing school district such as Moon Area would make it easier to sell homes in Coraopolis — where many are for sale — to young couples, said one longtime real estate agent. It might lower property taxes and persuade more people to invest in the community, others said.

And most importantly, merging the districts could give students from Coraopolis and Neville a chance to take more advanced classes, play on more sports teams, apply for more scholarships and enjoy the reputation of a high-performing district when applying for college, many parents and other community members said.

“These kids, if you merge, will compete with them academically and many of them will excel,” James Wiley said. “Your kids will show up on first team and excel, I know they will.”

But, several parents said, if the districts merge, Cornell’s 650 students will join more than 3,000 students in Moon Area schools and could lose their way without the personal attention provided by a small school district like Cornell.

Cathy Prevendoski said her son has struggled academically and socially but has found that he can seek out Mr. Thomas, the superintendent, any time he needs to talk through a problem.

“At Moon, he’s going to get lost,” she said. “He needs the small school, and there are a lot of other Alexes out there who need to know there’s someone there for them.”

Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: or 412-263-1719.

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