OSWEGO, NY ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ The future configuration of the Oswego City School District is in the hands of the school board.
The district’s Reconfiguration Committee presented its recommendations to the board and more than 60 members of the public ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ many with some sort of ties to Minetto Elementary School -on Tuesday night.
The proposal would close Minetto Elementary while adding grades 5 and 6 to the middle school and make the remaining elementary buildings pre-kindergarten to fourth grade.
An addition would have to be constructed at Oswego Middle School to accommodate the influx of students and staff.
The report is listed on the school district’s Web site at http://www.oswego.org/news_story.cfm?ID=2045
|Christy Davis, co-president of the Minetto Home and School Association, delivers a message to the board. In the background are members of the reconfiguration committee.|
“We didn’t convene this committee to close a particular school. In our research, Minetto came out as being the recommendation,” according to Maggie Tiballi, board president and a member of the committee. “There was no conspiracy.”
The school board will now consider all of the opinions expressed by those who spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting, and those who gave written questions to the district clerk.
“We will meet together as a committee and discuss those. We will have answers for you; those answers will be posted on the (district) Web site and will also be made available at the Education Center.”
Board member Dave White agreed with the speakers who felt the committee should have shown the figures and data regarding all the schools, not just Minetto.
“The committee certainly did a lot of work on this. But if it takes another public meeting or another month or two months to make a decision on this; since closing a building wouldn’t be until 2011I don’t think (a decision on the recommendation) is something we have to do tomorrow,” he said.
“Let’s see how much information we can get together by the next board meeting. We will discuss it at the next board meeting,” Tiballi said. “Then, we’ll decide how to go from there.”
“You’re looking at closing a school in 2011. You had 60 some odd people come here tonight and ask some legitimate questions. If it takes you tow or three more meetings to get those people that information, what is the big deal?” White said following the meeting. “If you had another meeting like this, and had the architect here, what is the big deal?”
Nothing is written in stone, Tiballi noted.
“It’s just a recommendation. That’s what people have to understand. A decision has not been made,” she said. “It’s just a recommendation. The committee did the research; they looked at all the things they needed to look at and made the recommendation to the board. Now, it’s the board’s responsibility to make a decision.”
The school board could decide to accept the recommendation as is, it could alter the timeframe or it could decide to do nothing at all, she said.
She thanked everyone who offered comments.
“We do need (public) input,” Tiballi said. “The recommendation was not made lightly at all. We are completely aware of the emotional factor at play here.”
Christy Davis, co-president of the Minetto Home and School Association, spoke on behalf of the Minetto school community.
She pointed out that no Minetto or OMS representatives served on the committee.
It will take an estimated $10.4 to renovate OMS, according to the district’s capital plan, she pointed out.
“Minetto needs $4.7 million for repairs. How would it save taxpayers money to build onto the middle school?” she asked. “It has not been shown that there will be any cost savings for transportation. What are the proposed savings for taxpayers?”
The $4.7 million for Minetto is “equal to or less than” funds for two other elementary schools that aren’t recommended to be closed, she pointed out.
She asked what benefits the students would receive.
“The Oswego City School District doesn’t need to close a school building until enrollment dictates and we can comfortably move students into existing buildings without adding on to others,” Davis said. “It is not fiscally responsible to make these changes at this time.”
About a dozen more speakers followed her to the microphone.
Carey Victory said she didn’t want her elementary school children riding a bus with seventh and eighth graders.
“I find it very hard to believe that seventh and eighth graders behave better around a sixth grader,” she said referring to one of the points made by the committee regarding student behavior.
Kids are growing up too fast today, Sherry Mahoney said. “By putting them all together, it’s just going to encourage more of that,” she told the board.
Some said they bought homes in Minetto because they wanted their children to attend that particular school. Others commented on moving the administration out of the Education and selling the East First Street office building.
Speakers also cited the fine teaching staff, good test scores and positive atmosphere at Minetto as justification to keep the school open.
One speaker pointed out that there is speculation about the possibility of another nuclear plant being built in Scriba; that would likely increase enrollment again, he pointed out.
|One of the speakers addresses the board at Tuesday night’s meeting.|
The speakers also wanted to know if there was any data showing that going to a 5-8 school building would decrease discipline problems, how fifth and sixth graders react when thrown together with older students, a cost comparisons with the other elementary buildings, how much state aid will the capital project, and what is the cost of the proposed new wing at OMS.
Cheryl Rogers, the music team leader, noted that Minetto is the only school with proper music facilities.
One new music room (proposed in the OMS addition) wouldn’t be adequate, she pointed out.
“We need a room for the string program, the band program, and the general music program,” she said.
“Why is this a better plan than all the other options?” asked Scott Chubon. “I’d like to see an over all comparison of the different options. Why is this the better option?”
Bus driver Kelly Stauring said she was concerned about safety, especially if more children are added to OMS ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ and there is less space for motorists due to the new addition.
“If you truly going to allow us to help make this decision, every elementary school should be (included in the presentation). We should see every school, every fact and then make our decision,” Jennifer Brown told the board. “I want to know why it’s only on Minetto.”
Emotion does play a big part in the decision, Marjorie Malone, a former Minetto student, said. “But, the students also play a part in this,” she added.
The board will continue to discuss the issue at its Nov. 20 meeting.