Clarkstown School District officials have called a community
meeting for Friday, Aug. 30 in the wake of Thursday’s announcement that Congers
Elementary School would not be opening in September because of unsafe
The first of two community meetings has been scheduled for Congers parents and staff at 3 p.m. Friday at Clarkstown South High School in West Nyack with a second briefing set for Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. in the high school. The district also released its plans for relocating the school’s almost 300 students to other buildings.
In a letter emailed to Congers parents, Superintendent Dr. J. Thomas Morton and Principal Martha Ryan wrote that the engineers examining the building “determined that the gym wall on the south side of the building is compromised and can no longer be considered safe.”
The gym wall had already been an area of concern with cracks regularly appearing and requiring examination by structural engineers. In August, the reappearance of cracks that had been repaired in late June resulted in the declaration that the wall was not structurally safe and would have to be replaced. A timeframe for that construction has not been figured out.
On Thursday afternoon part of the back section of the school and asphalt playground area was blocked off with yellow caution tape, which was also placed on doors to the school. The school parking lots were empty.
Morton, Ryan, district staff and others looked into alternate schools for relocating the students and staff without success. The interim they developed maintains students and teacher assignments and keeps grade levels together but divides the grades between three other elementary schools. The new placements are the following:
- Grades K and1 teachers and students will be relocated to Lakewood Elementary School
- Grades 2 and 3 teachers and students including special education will be relocated to New City Elementary School
- Grades 4 and 5 teachers and students including special education will be relocated to Laurel Plains Elementary School
Students will receive the same support services and Ryan will continue as the school’s principal. New transportation arrangements are being created and parents will receive bus schedules next week.
The entire letter appears below.
Dear Congers Elementary School Parents and Staff,
On Thursday evening August 28th, 2013 the Clarkstown Central School District received a final report from CS Arch Engineering regarding the structural integrity of the Congers Elementary School. Specifically, they have determined that that the gym wall on the south side of the building is compromised and can no longer be considered safe. As a result, it will not be possible to open the school to the community until this problem is corrected. Unfortunately, the construction time required to complete this repair is undetermined. Therefore, we have developed an interim plan for instruction beginning on September 9, 2013.
We would first like provide some background regarding the activities that led to our decision to close the school. At the end of June, a number of new cracks were discovered in the gym wall. Unfortunately, this is not a new phenomenon at Congers Elementary School as we have had to regularly repair cracks and involve structural engineers to ensure that the building remains safe to occupy. In early August, it was discovered these very same cracks reappeared suggesting additional shifting of the wall. After further analysis and testing by the engineering firm, it was determined that this wall is not structurally sound and must be replaced.
At this point, we began to investigate different options to provide instruction for the students of Congers Elementary School. We have developed a team comprised of Mrs. Ryan, the Superintendent and his staff, along with other stake holders. We then reached out to the other school districts in the county to determine if there was an available vacant school building that would meet our needs. It became clear that finding and occupying a new building by September 9th was an unlikely alternative. As such, we turned our focus towards options that could be implemented in time for school opening. This meant that we would need to split our students and occupy several available classrooms within the district. This does not preclude the option for moving the entire population of Congers Elementary School into one temporary building long term. However, it was determined to not be a feasible option for a September 9th school opening.
Our top priority was to keep our student/ teacher assignments in place. As such, we have developed a plan to minimize disruption within the class structure. Specifically, we plan to maintain all student assignments identified in the class placement letter sent to you earlier this week. Our second priority was to keep all grade level students in the same building. The third consideration was proximity to Congers. Based on all of these factors we have determined the following:
- Grades K-1 classes (teachers and students) will be relocated to Lakewood Elementary School.
- Grades 2-3 classes (teachers and students) including special education, will be relocated to New City Elementary School.
- Grades 4-5 classes (teachers and students) including special education, will be relocated to Laurel Plains Elementary School.
- Mrs. Ryan will remain the Principal of the Congers Elementary School staff and students, and will continue to provide administrative leadership.
- All classroom infrastructure will be relocated (e.g. desks, Smart Boards).
- All Congers students will continue to receive the same support services available in their home school.
- Transportation logistics are currently being developed and parents will be contacted next week with bus schedules.
We recognize that there will be inconveniences for students and their families. However, we believe that by maintaining students within our district, we will provide the best possible learning environment for the children of Congers Elementary School. We also recognize that there may be families that have siblings attending separate elementary schools. We are in the process of determining the extent of this concern and are prepared to discuss this one on one with the affected families.
In an effort to ensure we give everyone an opportunity to ask questions and voice their concerns, there will be a community meeting on Friday August 30th at 3:00pm in the South High School Auditorium and again on Tuesday September 3rd at 7:00pm at the same location for those who cannot attend tomorrows meeting.
We are confident that by continuing to work together, we will ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for the children of Congers Elementary School. We look forward to working together as we resolve this important matter.Dr. J Thomas Morton
Superintendent of Schools
Mrs. Martha Ryan
Principal of Congers Elementary