After finding out the cost of leasing St. Augustine’s School
for displaced Congers Elementary students and listening to their parents talk
about the importance of reuniting them, only one Clarkstown School Board member
came out in favor of renting the building. Chris Conti, who lives in Congers,
put forward a motion to lease St. Augustine’s but no trustee seconded it.
Parents reacted angrily and urged the trustees to act.
“You guys are a disgrace.” “Someone speak up.” “Do the right thing.”
One parent told the board, “You have done a deplorable job of protecting our interests, our children’s interests.”
Conti promised to bring up the motion at the next board meeting in two weeks.
Before Conti made the motion, Assistant School Superintendent John LaNave had provided the specifics on the proposed rental. He said it would cost $260,000 to lease St. Augustine’s for one year plus $45,000 for utilities.
LaNave said he had a lease ready for legal review if the board voted in favor of renting and noted that four days would be needed for classrooms to be packed and then set up at the new location.
After the three- and a half-hour long meeting Conti said he was disappointed.
“I’m truly upset that nobody seconded the motion,” Conti said, adding he thought it would get a second so the board could discuss the rental.
Conti said several trustees told him they want more information about the environment at the three schools, which Congers students are now attending.
One mother said the lack of action left parents disappointed and would impact the children.
“I think it’s sad most of us came here hopeful they were going to St. Augustine’s,” she said. “This is not right what you are doing to our kids. You are stressing them out.”
Congers Elementary Principal Martha Ryan and the principals of Lakewood, Laurel Plains and New City elementary schools said the students were transitioning well. Vicki Giannetti spoke about crowding at the schools and special education students not receiving necessary services.
Ryan said the master schedule had been implemented and she was working on getting support services into place with staff members and classrooms.
“Again, every child will get their mandated services on their IEP,” said Ryan
Congers residents also heard estimates for repairing the unsafe back wall that led to their elementary school being closed down in late August. LaNave said the engineers estimated it would cost $3 million to fix the back wall, two connecting walls and where the back wall meets the roof. Redoing the front facade would cost $1 million.
Getting additional engineering reports, determining the scope of work and issuing bids could take until January or February 2014. That also displeased parents who want the school repaired more quickly and expressed concerns that the board would not want to spend the money because of the district’s deteriorating finances. LaNave said in less than two years there will be a $16 million gap between revenues and expenses and no reserve funds left to close it.
Board President Mike Aglialoro spoke about declining enrollment. He said the number of students has decreased since the 1980s and there is capacity in the schools. He said the board will be discussing the issue at future meetings.
Board members discussed the possibility of proposing a bond to pay for the Congers Elementary repairs and to replace roofs on all the schools.
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