Additional details shared about a proposed redistricting of
Congers Elementary School students for the coming school year led to numerous
questions and criticisms from parents at Thursday night’s school board
Clarkstown School Superintendent Dr. J. Thomas Morton explained his recommendation to the school board to reassign Congers students for at least the 2014-2015 school year whether the $6.5 million bond to repair their school was passed or not. He recommended that the district not rent the former St. Augustine’s School for a second year and instead divide up the school’s 300 students between the Lakewood and New City elementary schools. However, his plan did not include information about where special education students would attend classes.
Congers PTA Co-President Irene Lawlor said the plan was short sighted and remedial and looked at the situation short term not long term.
“Ultimately you’ll end up killing our community,” she said.
Lawlor said she did not understand how the superintendent could leave special education students out of his plan, saying their parents needed to know what the future plans might be for their children.
Parent Vicki Gianetti said she was unhappy to hear the words “assume” and “should” in the explanation of the plan.
Board member Wendy Adolff also asked about where Congers’ two self-contained special education classes would be housed and was told no decision had been made.
Dr. Morton said the proposal would reduce the district budget by more than $1,250,000 because it would eliminate the positions of eight classroom teachers and several arts and music staffers, one principal, one nurse, two custodians, numerous clerical employees, one greeter and an undetermined number of teaching assistants.
Dr. Morton was his plan was based on the assumption that the kindergarten enrollment for September 2014 would be the same as in September 2013.
According to his recommendation, Congers’ current 34 kindergarteners would be divided with 14 going to Lakewood and 20 to New City for first grade. The current 24 first graders would be split with 16 going to Lakewood and 8 to New City for second grade.
Congers’ current 39 second graders would be divided with 30 going to Lakewood and 9 to New City for third grade. The current 33 third graders would be split with 18 going to Lakewood and 15 to New City for fourth grade. The current 44 fourth graders would be divided with 25 joining fifth grade classes at Lakewood and 19 at New City. He said children living closest to the reservoir would be attending New City Elementary.
Board members questioned portions of the recommendation. Trustee Joe Malgieri said staff should not be laid off if the proposed $6.5 million bond passes to fund the repairs at Congers Elementary. The bond vote is scheduled for February 4th.
Adolff asked about the status of the demographer’s report on future enrollment, which the board approved in December. Assistant Superintendent John LaNave said work on the report had not yet begun and when started would take several months.
Dr. Morton noted that classes at Congers had averaged fewer students than the district’s other elementary schools and said the school board would likely have to consider some type of redistricting in the future especially considering its financial issues.
“But the board is going to have to take a look at alternatives if all 10 (elementary) schools are kept on line,” he said.
The issue of what would happen to the school closed since August because of unsafe conditions if the bond failed also came up for discussion. The superintendent said the two choices are to secure it or tear it down that he would not recommend it be sold.
Securing the building for long-term vacancy would cost an estimated $60,000 not including utilities. Demolishing the school could run $3 million. One resident said the state education department limits the amount of time a school building can be vacant to 24 months. He said if the district decides to sell the building it would be required by law to sell to the highest bidder.
Speakers criticized the way the $6.5 million bond was being presented to the public and said it was dividing the Clarkstown community. Some said the bond should have been approved for a larger amount and included funds for new roofs and essential repairs to other district schools. Several trustees said they would support another bond in the future to address those problems.
Parent Matt Kravitz said, " I don't think there's anybody here who wants anything but the best for their kids. This is about wanting. We want the best and we want the bond to pass."
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