A standing ovation and hugs followed the Clarkstown Board of
Education’s vote to rent St. Augustine’s School for the displaced Congers
Elementary School students. The board voted six to one to rent the now empty
school so the approximately 300 Congers students could attend classes in the
The board’s action came after more than an hour of listening to concerns and complaints from some of the 500 Clarkstown parents and residents about the current situation, which has Congers students split among three schools. Numerous parents said their children with special needs were not receiving the services they were mandated to receive. Others spoke about the children’s loss of a sense of a community with Congers Elementary’s sudden closure in late August because of an unsafe back wall.
“This is a win for our kids,” said Congers Principal Martha Ryan. “This is a win for the community.”
Ryan said the community and staff would join together for the benefit of the children.
“We’ll all work together,” she said. “We know what the priorities are and what we need to do.”
Before the vote to lease St. Augustine’s for the rest of the school year, board members spoke about their visits to the building.
“In my estimation there is plenty of room in that building,” said Joe Malgieri, a retired teacher.
Wendy Adolff cautioned that space would be tight and some modifications would have to be made.
“This is temporary,” she said. “I cannot promise where your children will be September 2014.”
Trustee Chris Conti said his child’s IEP was not being met with the present arrangement but he was confident it would be after the move to St. Augustine’s.
“I am just glad to say this has been resolved,” said Trustee Diane Hoeneveld.
Assistant School Superintendent John LaNave said previously it would cost $250,000 to lease the school plus about $50,000 for utilities. He said he would call the Archdiocese of New York on Wednesday to prepare the lease. LaNave did not say when the Congers’ students classrooms could be moved from the New City, Laurel Plains and Lakewood elementary schools but that it would require a long weekend.
“We need a long weekend with help,” he said. “We can create a long weekend.”
Audience members immediately volunteered to help move classroom furniture and supplies.
At the end of the almost three hour-long meeting, one speaker summed up the feelings of others, “What you did tonight was the right thing.”
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