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State Official Adamant: No Aid For Congers Elementary Repairs

Congers Elementary School
Congers Elementary School

UPDATED 7:15 p.m. with comments.

A top ranking State Education Department (SED) official refused to consider the Clarkstown School District’s appeal for state aid because the district has excess classrooms.  Carl Thurnau, director of SED’s Office of Facilities Planning, told district officials and board members Monday night that the school system has more than 60 excess classrooms according to state calculations. 

The district applied for state funding equal to 51 percent of the $6.5 million cost to repair Congers Elementary, which was closed in August. After SED rejected the application in early January, state legislators intervened to organize a meeting. 

School Superintendent Dr. J. Thomas Morton said Thurnau was adamant that the district was not eligible for aid. Thurnau explained state statutes count only interchangeable classrooms where students are taught a variety of subjects. It does not include in that number rooms used for computer, language or music labs or gym. 

The state calculated that the district has about 80 excess classrooms. Board members disputed that and said the district has seven or eight unused classrooms. State regulations permit 23 students in kindergarten through second grade classes and 27 students in third through fifth grade classes. The district’s classes are smaller than those sizes. 

Thurnau gave Morton a letter with the state’s position. 

“(It’s) basically saying we have two close two other (schools) if we want to keep Congers online,” said Morton. “That’s pretty straightforward what he said.” 

Thurnau’s letter described the district’s options. 

“The Department recommends that the district conduct a demographics and space analysis to inform how to utilize existing space in the most efficient manner. If the district determines that Congers should remain a viable instructional facility in the future, renovations could be eligible for aid if other schools were taken off line to align enrollment with available space.”

School Board President Mike Aglialoro and board members Joe Malgieri and Chris Conti attended the two-hour-long meeting. Aglialoro said Thurnau's response was disappointing to hear but if the bond passes, the board will take further action and decide how to appeal.

A public vote on a $6.5 million bond for the repair of Congers Elementary will be held from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 4. As of Monday, more than 140 applications for absentee ballots had been submitted. 

Editor's Note: The letter is attached to the article and is online at the district's website.

Overtaxed February 04, 2014 at 11:53 AM
I've already seen comments that if the bond fails, its not over. Due to the recent statements by people who say that the board does not have to follow Morton's recommendations, which is technically true, I believe they will use that as a catalyst to go at the board and say just because Morton says to close the School, the BOE does not have to. I think that argument will fall on deaf ears.
Taxestoohigh February 04, 2014 at 12:02 PM
I don't understand why these people ran a negative campaign to save Congers. Wouldn't it have been better to rally people outside of Congers to vote Yes by being positive?
Overtaxed February 04, 2014 at 12:07 PM
Taxes... that has been my point all along. I think that they had a very valid argument without misinformation. I did not think it was necessary to put out all the BS. From your home values going down 29%, to the vast conspiracy to close the school, kids being on the bus unsafe distances, etc. I dont understand why they only put flyers in Congers and closed facebook groups. I truly believe they hurt their cause. But I guess time will tell.
Taxestoohigh February 04, 2014 at 12:23 PM
They can't control themselves it seems. A woman posted in the Congers Elementary School Facebook group that the district changed locations for the bond vote. It's been posted for weeks that Congers residents vote at Lakewood Elementary. Where did she expect to vote, at Congers? I am laughing at these posts.
One love February 06, 2014 at 06:00 PM
@both Taxestoohigh and Overtaxed...guess time told. It seems that we didn't hurt our cause right? It passed. I'm sorry to disappoint. And the best part? The rest of Clarkstown (not just congers) pushed it to a victory. I pray that I can be involved in the next bond vote. It will be epic.

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