OSWEGO, NY Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Oswego School Superintendent Bill Crist has proposed closing Frederick Leighton Elementary School and transforming it into the new education center.
At the school board’s budget workshop tonight (Feb. 23) Crist explained that the school’s Pre-Kindergarten through grade five students would be relocated to the other four elementary buildings.
And, the sixth graders would join the seventh and eighth graders in Oswego Middle School, in the four additional classrooms that will be completed this summer, Crist said.
Bonnie Finnerty, OMS principal, has been able to reconfigure her school in a way to allow for the introduction of the sixth grade, Crist said. The elementary principals have also been working on a similar plan, he added.
“Given that, it appears we can reduce staff to as point without impacting programs significantly at this point,” he said. “It would allow for the district to move forward then in a more efficient manner. It allows the district to not be attached to state aid numbers that are going to continue to fluctuate. We know now that our state is not in a solvent condition Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ I don’t see that correcting for at least the next two to three years.”
The district still doesn’t know what the impact from Nine Mile one and two will be on the budget, he added.
“Six, seven and eight at the middle school, I like that concept,” Board President Sam Tripp said.
But, he was a bit concerned about the number of students that would be at the school.
Historically, Crist said, the school had at one point just under 900 students. The school will have an addition this summer, he continued.
“We confident we can add the sixth grade into our present middle school,” he told the board.
Board member John Dunsmoor was irked at getting such a proposal at the meeting without having had time to study it beforehand.
“To show up at a meeting and have this thrown at me, I’ll take Whitey’s stand on this one,” he said of fellow board member Dave White’s instance of having material prior to the meetings so that they can at least have an idea of what they are discussing.
“I’ll think about it. I’ll hash is out, but I don’t like it,” Dunsmoor continued. “Our problem isn’t our buildings. To maintain a building and then mothball it; now we’re going take the Ed Center and put it in the whole building down to Leighton? That’s nuts! We don’t need the whole Ed Center down there. We need the print shop back where it was, we need the food services back where it was. We used to have a little building down at the corner of (West) Utica (Street) and Hillside (Avenue) that housed the Ed Center, about the size of the portables because we didn’t have so many things in it. We don’t need a whole lot of space to move this Ed Center.”
“This is just one option that we came up with,” Finnerty said. “There are other options.”
White agreed with Dunsmoor.
Contacting Oswego County Today from Florida, White said it is a little late in the budget process to throw a major proposal like this on the table.
“They knew the position we were in (financially),” White said. “Now, we have no choice. We have to have the right information to make sound decisions. We can’t just have something like this sprung on us.”
White added he still proposes the district should take a look at what is the least it needs to provide educational services, and then add on from there as revenues allow.
The district is facing a potential $5.5 million budget gap, Crist said. That would mean a 2.54 percent tax levy increase.
“It’s painful to even suggest it; it’s painful to even recommend it. But, when you look at a $5.5 million budget gap with a state that has given no indication that they are going to provide any assistance to us today, tomorrow or down the road the next two or three years Ã¢â‚¬â€œ that’s a concern,” the superintendent said.
“I wish we cold say the situation is going to be solved by what’s on the horizon at Nine Mine one and two. But I can’t bank on that right now, either,” Crist continued, referring to the tax negotiation going on with the owners of the nuclear power plants.
“We’re not going to save any money by closing a building and throwing the staff out. They’re all going to relocate to the other buildings,” Dunsmoor said. “If you redistrict to get closer to the 25 (class size), that’s serving the same purpose.”
“John, we looked at trying to get to more efficient class sizes as (board member) Fran (Hoefer) has suggested,” Crist said.
“That doesn’t mean relocate a whole school,” Dunsmoor countered.
“The reason we’re having this problem is that whenever anything progressive is proposed, there’s massive opposition,” Hoefer noted.
“Before we people out on the street,” board member Tom DeCastro said there is another, extremely unpopular, option to consider.
Eliminating all after-school activities has the potential of saving the district millions. He wasn’t proposing the move, he only wanted people to be aware of the option, he explained.
Crist said his plan doesn’t eliminate programs, “it provides for efficient operation, more efficient than we’ve done. It provides class sizes that are appropriate but not over-crowded Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ and the special services that makes Oswego unique.”