OSWEGO, NY â€“ The Oswego school board revisited the possibility of conducting a redistricting and relocation initiative in the district.
The board conducted a discussion this week with consultants from Syracuse Universityâ€™s Office of Professional Research and Development.
Dr. Scott Shablak and Dr. Frank Ambrosie fielded questions from the board regarding which direction the board would like to proceed.
â€œLooking at the issues facing us as a school district and community of declining enrollment, some issues of whether we have facilities beyond our need at this point or not, also the interest to look at our present grade configuration and how weâ€™re offering that and if there is interest first and foremost by the board of education to proceed in a certain direction,â€ said Bill Crist, superintendent.
Over the past five years, the district has accumulated data on the issue, but never really utilized, he added.
â€œWhat weâ€™d like to do is spend about an hour just to kind of get a sense of what you might be looking for that could help move the school district forward, and see if there is a match with the kind of things the university can offer,â€ Dr. Shablak said.
â€œI believe we have to look at the enrollment issue,â€ said Dave White, board president.
At one point, it was recommended to move the sixth grade into Oswego Middle School, he added.
â€œWhat Iâ€™d like is to settle this one way or the other. It is the most responsible thing to do. Itâ€™s going to get tougher and tougher to get money from the state. Itâ€™s certainly going to get tougher and tougher keep asking people working in the community to pay,â€ White said. â€œWeâ€™re going to have to look at some way of reducing costs.â€
The board needs to come to an agreement on grade alignment and would closing a school building actually save the district that much money, Sam Tripp said.
â€œItâ€™s not that expensive to keep a building open,â€ John Dunsmoor noted. â€œHow you staff a building is where the expenses come into play.â€
The districtâ€™s biggest â€œunpopulated buildingâ€ is the high school, he said, adding heâ€™d like to address what the district could do with the extra space at OHS.
He hasnâ€™t seen any information regarding what closing an (elementary) school would do to home values in the area and the morale of the community, he continued.
â€œI donâ€™t see where weâ€™re saving money by closing a school,â€ he said. â€œI think itâ€™s going to wind up costing us more.â€
Tripp agreed, telling the consultants, â€œShow me weâ€™re being fiscally responsible to the needs of the school district (by closing a school).â€
â€œThere needs to be a master plan. It canâ€™t be letâ€™s mothball a school,â€ Dunsmoor added.
â€œIâ€™m a firm believer in neighborhood schools,â€ Tom DeCastro said. â€œIt isnâ€™t all about the building. Itâ€™s not all about the staff of the building. We have to look at the people who are going to be impacted by any changes that we do to any of our programs. We have to look at the makeup and the makeup of the school is the kids.â€
Fran Hoefer said heâ€™s been adamant in his belief that a school needs to be closed.
â€œI want to close a school and save us money. But John is right, closing a school isnâ€™t going to save us money, maybe a minimal amount,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™re wasting money on classes that are too small and busing people all over the place and inefficiency and ineffectiveness.â€
He purposed closing a room or a floor in a building or re-purposing it for other uses.
â€œIâ€™m inclined to say letâ€™s just forget the study, letâ€™s keep the neighborhood schools and close parts of the school,â€ he said.
White pointed out that the schools arenâ€™t â€œneighborhood schoolsâ€ in the true sense of neighborhood schools. They are a combination of neighborhood schools, he said.
â€œIf the majority doesnâ€™t want to close (a school), just say you donâ€™t want to close it,â€ he said. â€œThere are a thousand reasons you can find not to. We have to look at closing a school; we have to look at enrollment. Weâ€™re talking about taking all the kids from sixth grade and moving them, but weâ€™re going to keep all those elementary schools open for what amounts to probably about 25 kids â€“ I think thatâ€™s unreasonable.â€
Jim Tschudy said the district must take into account the enrollment trend for the next several years.
â€œThe question is at this point is what can we do to provide the best education for our children?â€ he said.
Whether or not the district finds a buyer for the Education Center is a big variable in whatever the district decides to do, he added.
â€œI canâ€™t see where thereâ€™d be deep support for any plan for closing a school unless there was a compelling advantage that was presented in terms of the educational future of the children in our district,â€ Tschudy said.
Kathy Allen agreed, adding that there was no support for the districtâ€™s suggestion to re-purpose Leighton Elementary because the public saw it as being done just for the advantage of the administration.
The board concluded the discussion without setting a timetable for any decision to be made.